The Entire Criminal Justice Process For A Felony Criminal Charged In A State Court
A felony criminal charge is a crime which originally involved confiscation of a convicted person’s property such as land. Felony includes quite a number of crimes such as battery, arson, burglary, aggravated assault illegal drugs and vandalism of federal property. A person who is convicted in any court for felony crime is called a felon. The criminal justice system is a series of institutions and practices within the government who are directed towards upholding social control, mitigation and deterring of criminal activities. The criminal justice institutions are also involved in sanctioning individuals who violate the laws as well as recommending rehabilitation of other convicted individuals. A certain procedure is applied when the criminal justice institutions are carrying out justice and fair ruling in felony crimes at the state and federal level.
The entire criminal justice process for a felon in a state court
The entire criminal justice process for a felony crime involves a series of stages which are closely linked and dependent. The first stage is usually investigation of the criminal while the last stage involves release of the felon after undergoing correctional supervision.
Arrest of the felon
Usually an accused individual is arrested after the necessary investigations have been carried out which will link the person to that particular crime. Arrests are usually carried out by police officers upon presentation of a warrant legalizing the arrest such that the suspect is held in custody awaiting the court hearings (Law Criminal Lawyer, 2008).The process of arrest require that the rights of the suspect are read out to him/her this is sometimes referred to as the Miranda Rights which states that any information that is obtained during the arrest cannot be used against the accused in case their rights had not been read out to them.
The constitution provides protection for the accused in that they should remain silent as anything that they say after their rights have been read out to them will be used against them in the court ruling (Law Criminal Lawyer, 2008).The constitution also provides for a state criminal lawyer to those who cannot afford to hire one such that the accused should consult with the attorney before and during the questioning. The attorney will ensure that the rights of the felon are protected especially if the attorney is trustworthy as the public attorney may not be quite efficient as one who is hired by the accused (Law Criminal Lawyer, 2008).
Although the arrestee may be in possession of illegal drugs, harmful weapons or stolen property, the constitution protects them from unnecessary searches. They have a right to resist any form of unlawful arrest as it is against the law. Consequently, any officer who carries out such a search may lead to dismissal of the case due to violation of the rights of the arrestee. This provides a chance for the arrestee to challenge the arrest or search as well as its lawfulness. After a person has been arrested, they are booked such that they provide personal information; their fingerprints are taken as well as their photographs.At this point, charges may be filed against the arrestee such that they may proceed into the next stage or else they may be released if there are no charges against them (Law Criminal Lawyer, 2008).
Arraignment in court
Prosecution involves the presentation of the case to the state attorney or magistrate who files the compliant for the criminal activity that has been committed. The filing is usually based on the arrest citation which contains a brief statement of facts concerning the crime(s) committed by the felon. At this point the defendant is issued with a copy of the complaint so that they are able to read and understand the details of the crime (Barkan, 2004).When deciding whether to charge the accused with a crime, the attorney usually weighs a number of issues such as the seriousness of the offence as well as availability and reliability of the evidence which is present.
Options of setting bails and application of plea-bargains are also enacted at this time such that the future of the case is dependent on the results of the prosecution stage. The magistrate has to go through previous criminal records of the accused as well as carrying out thorough review of the reports and records which are presented concerning the case. Lack of enough and concrete evidence results in the prosecutor issuing instructions to the police, to carry out an intense search as well as investigations on the case, so as to close the missing links (Barkan, 2004).During prosecution, the attorney may include indictment as part of the procedure employed by the grand jury to decide on the nature of charges to be brought against the accused.
However, the law prohibits the defendant and his/her attorney to be present during the indictment by the grand jury. This may be seen as violation of the rights of the person as the grand jury uses the probable cause to come up with their charges against the person (Barkan, 2004).Consequently, the magistrate also reads out the rights of the defendant such as the right to have an attorney such that in case the defendant does not have one the state can appoint one free of charge as well as the right to remain silent. The provision of a state attorney by the court in a felony case is crucial as the attorney ahs to meet and represent the defendant during the first appearance (Barkan, 2004).Prosecution usually occurs within hours of arrest where the accused appears before the attorney who reads out the prosecutions.
The severity of the crime determines the whether a bail will be offered as an option to the accused while the rights of release before trial are read out to the individual. There are various bailing options present for the defendants dependent on the level of crime such that the court is guaranteed of the defendant’s appearance during the trials. Any suspicions of fleeing on the part of the defendant before trail may deny him/her the chance of being offered a bail. The bail or bond usually presents a lot of conditions to the defendant such that in some cases the magistrate may prohibit any contact with the accused. This allows for the relatives and close friends of the person to post the money which will lead to the release of the individual.
A person who is not offered the option of bail is supposed to remain within the confinements of the jail until the case ruling is delivered (Barkan, 2004).The sole objective of the arraignment is for the individual to plead guilty or not guilty such that from there the court can decide on the next stage. Sometimes the magistrate may decide that the defendant is sincerely not guilty such that a not guilty plea is added to the complaint. After the accusations have been recorded and presented to the attorney and the accused, the date for the defendant’s second appearance in court is set whereby the preliminary hearing or cross-examination of the case is held (Barkan, 2004).
The pre-trial stage
During the pre-trial stage, the magistrate handling the case should be well versed with the case such that all necessary information and evidence regarding the case should be thoroughly investigated and availed. Therefore, the case file should contain all relevant information which is crucial in determining the fate of the defendant. The prosecutor should also be in a position to present details concerning the case by paying a visit to the scene of crime way before the case is heard in court. Usually the accused is asked to present themselves in court during the pre-trial as well as the jury, members of the public and other people who may be connected to the crime (Bergman and Berman, 2009).
An opening statement is often read out to all by both sides of the case informing the people about the case they will be hearing. The government side presents the first statement while the attorney presenting the accused follows with the other side of the statement. These opening statements are usually factual such that they are posed in away that presentation of evidence will prove them true or false. However, it is not statutory that both sides should present their statements at the same time as one group may opt to read the same at the end of the session (Bergman, 2009).
The pre-trial stage also involves a series of preliminary hearings where evidence is presented before the jury, members of the public and both sides of attorneys to decide whether there is enough evidence to portray the accused as guilty of felony. This is however, preceded by a conference between the two sides of attorneys who decide on the best ay forward whether the trial is necessary. A plea-bargain is often achieved at this stage as a provision of the constitution where the jury’s trial is requested incase the felony is not very extreme. In the event of plea-bargain, the case does not proceed to trial but failure to provide enough evidence to ascertain such an advantage, the case proceeds to trial (DaneCounty, 2006).
Trial involves a series of proceedings where the prosecutor avails evidence which will be used to prove the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt. In felony cases, the defendant is given minimal chances of admitting innocence but at times a chance may be presented where they may challenge the validity of evidence presented by the prosecutor. Felony cases usually involve the services of a jury who listen to the case proceedings together with the judge and after careful analysis of the evidence that is presented, they pass their judgment on whether the defendant committee the crime or not (American Bar Association, 2010).
The opening remarks which were read during the arraignment are read once more to those who are present before the hearing commences. After the case is heard from both sides, the presentation of evidence prevails such that direct evidence from key eyewitness as well as evidence obtained from the site of crime is presented for all to see. Similarly, circumstantial evidence is presented which links the defendant to the crime. The constitution provides protection of the accused incase the evidence is tampered with by either members of the government of public. Any form of contamination of the evidence results in nullifying the evidence such that members who carry out investigations need to be cautious so as not to tamper with any relevant evidence (DaneCounty, 2006).
More evidence is obtained by cross and direct examination of witnesses where both sides of witnesses are asked questions which are not necessarily leading unless during the cross-examination. The fifth amendment of the United States constitution however prevents the defendant from testifying against him/herself such that their views are not sought during the hearing. The state law dictates that after all witnesses have presented their evidence, both sides of attorneys converge without including the jury and they go over the details of evidence provided in the presence of the judge (American Bar Association, 2010).
Incase one side is not satisfied with the proceedings, rebuttal of the defense begins where witnesses comment and provide more evidence on the evidence which is presented by the defense. The jury is also given a chance to go over the evidence and at some point the judge gets to hear the verdict of each juror such that he/she is able to obtain the opinion of each one of them (American Bar Association, 2010).Sometimes the evidence availed by the prosecutor and witnesses may not be valid such that the supposed crime cannot be proved hence making the defendant not guilty. In such a situation, he/she is released from custody as their was no accusing evidence while incase the defendant is found guilty; an option of remaining in jail while awaiting sentencing or being released on bond is presented to them (American Bar Association, 2010).
Sentencing of felony criminals
Sentencing is often left to judges who may request reports form probation officers which help in explaining the behavior and conduct of the accused. Felony requires mandatory sentencing but the judge handling the case may decide to impose concurrent sentences depending on the convicted individual’s testimony during sentencing (American Bar Association, 2010).However, cases regarding felony last for at least one year although the judge may seek the option of probation depending on past behavior of the convict. Nonetheless, some sentences may incorporate a fine, probation, a session of incarceration in addition to close supervision in the society (American Bar Association, 2010).
Appeals are used to retry the case dependent on arguments that there were errors in the judgment but it does not apply to cases where the defendant thinks he was unfairly sentenced. These types of cases are filed by the respective lawyers but the case is handled by the appellant judge who reconsiders the case although no new witnesses or evidence is produced. Convicts of felony do not possess nay rights to appeal in their cases neither can their attorneys appeal for them (American Bar Association, 2010).
The criminal justice system involving felony is quite complicated and it provides very few chances of the victims to save themselves from the judges. Although, at the preliminary stages there are quite a number of opportunities to escape the harsh sentences associated with felony, most state and federal laws calls for strict measures on the crimes so as to reduce the rate of insecurity in the neighborhoods. The complex system thus, provides a thorough extensive investigation into the committed crime.
American Bar Association (2010), how courts work: steps in trail. Retrieved on May 26, 2010 form: www.americanbarass.com
Barkan, S.E. (2004), “criminal prosecution and trial” a neglected dynamic in the study of social movements” presented at the Annual American Sociological Association. Retrieved on May 26, 2010 from: http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p108797- index.html
Bergman, P. and Berman, S. (2009), know your rights: survive the system. Nolo publishers
Dane county (2006), the criminal court process: possible outcomes of prosecution. Retrieved on May 26, 2010 from: www.countyofdane.com/daoffice/process.htm - United States
Law Criminal ;Lawyer (2008), criminal process: arrest process. Retrieved on May 26, 2010 from: www.lacriminallawyer.com.