Understanding how court works is an important part of a strong defense. The criminal court system has been designed to be fair, to offer a quick trial and to be impartial. When you think of the criminal system, it’s important to understand that you enter the system at the moment of your arrest. It’s not just a trial that’s important, it’s everything that comes before it, too.
After you’re booked into jail, you’ll make an appearance in court. At that point, you will be released on bail or released on your own recognizance. In some cases, you’ll be released due to a lack of evidence, and your case will come to an end.
If you’re being charged with a felony, the first time you go to court is to find out if there is enough evidence to believe that it was you who committed a crime. If not, you’ll be released. If so, then you’ll move on to the next stage, the arraignment. During the arraignment, you’ll plead guilty, not guilty or no contest, depending on your case. If you decide to plead no contest or guilty, you’ll be sentenced during the arraignment. If you claim you’re not guilty, the case goes to trial.
At trial, you can be found guilty or innocent. Some people are acquitted due to errors in the case, too. If you are convicted, you’ll be penalized and a sentence is issued. You may be fined, face time in jail or be placed on probation. Some people face all three penalties. Our site has more on what to do if you’re facing charges.