What Will Transpire When You’re Arrested for A Crime?
Interviewer: After someone’s been arrested and they end up in jail, what’s next? How often do they have to go to court? What’s going to happen step by step from there?
Zach Peagler: Well, it depends largely on the type of charge that they are facing, and so the first step and most people’s immediate concern is getting out of jail. How do I get out of here? That goes back to our conversation earlier about posting bail, so they’re going to need to talk to family members or friends or if they’ve got their own resources, that’s the first step – to get out of jail as quickly as you can. Then, I say, from there you need to go meet with an attorney as soon as you possibly can. Many cases, depending on what type it is, have very time-sensitive requirements under the law to make certain responses or defenses in a timely manner, rather than just waiting to show up in court.
For instance, in a DUI case, you have 10 days from the day that you were arrested to file for an administrative hearing regarding the suspension of your driver’s license. That’s just one example of something that needs to be handled quickly. Then, in the most serious criminal case like a murder or something of that nature, you need to meet with a lawyer and get out all of the facts while they’re fresh on your mind so you can talk about certain witnesses or alibi defenses that may disappear over time.
Just like I talked about earlier, time is on the side of the criminal defendants because evidence breaks down and witnesses disappear, and that can be just as important for the defendant in a case where they’re innocent, because if you wait three months to talk to a lawyer, the witnesses that are relevant may have moved. Certain evidence that could have been collected two months ago has now disappeared. If you’re involved in a serious case like that, go meet with a lawyer. A lot of times what we’ll do is get a private investigator hired immediately so that they can go out and start interviewing the witnesses, collecting any evidence that may be out there that the police have missed, or trying to review evidence that the police have in their custody, and then from there we can make motions with the court to do our own independent evaluation of certain evidence and that type of thing.
As far as how often you’re going to have to go to court, that depends on the jurisdiction that you’ve been charged in and what the charges are against you, but in a felony case in Jefferson County, most of the time you’re going to get an initial court date in district court before there’s been an indictment. You’ve just been arrested but the D.A. hasn’t put the case on the grand jury yet. You’re going to have to go before a district court judge, and they’ll give you the opportunity to try to plea bargain your case, and if not, you can have a preliminary hearing where the state has to put out evidence that can show that there’s probable cause to have charged you with the crime.
Then from there, the case will go to the grand jury and then go to circuit court to start the pretrial hearings in the case. It’s a long, involved process that’s going to vary case by case on how many times you go to court, but if you’re looking at having a jury trial, you’re going to go to court anywhere from six to 12 times before your case gets to trial.
Interviewer: Potentially how long could a case last?
Zach Peagler: Depending, again, on the seriousness of the cases, they can last from 12 to 24 months. Now, if somebody comes in and it’s a lower level charge and they want to try to plea bargain it as quickly as they can and move on, the case may only last a couple of months, but in most of those cases, they’re going to end up on some sort of probation that will last from one to five years. When you’ve been charged with a crime, you should not be under the presumption that it’s going to be over in a month. It’s going to become a part of your life for the foreseeable future, and you just kind of have to mentally prepare yourself for that.
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