Washington, DC Criminal Process

When you get arrested, what happens next depends on the police and what the specifics of the charge are. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you will likely be held for a couple of hours while you are booked and processed by the police, then you get released with a citation to appear in court. That is a date to appear back in court, usually in about three weeks, to be arraigned. That’s when the U.S. Attorney’s office officially charges you with a crime, such as possession of marijuana, assault, prostitution, or whatever offense allegedly occurred.

DC Criminal ProcessIf you are being arrested on a felony charge, then instead of getting a citation to appear in court a few weeks later, you get presented before a judge at the first available date, which would be usually the next day, or sometimes even that same day. You would then be presented before a judge and instead of being charged at that point, a judge would hear arguments as to whether or not you should be released or held while your case is pending. The next step is to be charged by a grand jury. The grand jury would decide what to charge you with, or whether to charge you at all. Once the grand jury has charged you, you appear before the court for an arraignment and that would be for situations in which you’re being charged with a felony. If charged with either type of offense it is imperative to consult with a DC criminal lawyer as soon as you can in order to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the entirety of the process.

Preparing for Court

That depends on what kind of court date you have. If you are released on a citation to appear in court a few weeks later for your arraignment, there is not a lot that you can do to prepare for that court date except hire a lawyer and then have a lawyer ready to come in with you on your first court date. If you’re coming up on a trial date, it’s important to be working with your lawyer in order to be prepared with witnesses, arguments, and testimony. If you are coming in for any other hearing, the most important thing is to be in communication with your lawyer so that your lawyer can tell you what the next steps are and prepare you either for testimony or for some other process. In certain situations, in order to prepare for a court date, you have to be following certain pretrial conditions, like drug testing, enrolling in an alcohol education program, or following any other pretrial conditions that are imposed on you by the court.

Common Mistakes That People Make

When someone is first arrested, there are a lot of mistakes they might make that put them in a worse position. The most frequent mistake that people make is answering the police officer’s questions without an attorney present. Even if a person accused of a crime hasn’t done anything wrong and was wrongfully accused, typically police officers, when they ask someone questions, can be manipulative and ask trick questions. They can be confusing. They can try to manipulate you into giving answers that help their case. The police officers aren’t there to help you, they’re not there to try to understand your side of the story; they’re there to try and get evidence to be used against you. Whenever someone waives their right to remain silent and starts making statements to the police without requesting the presence of a lawyer, the prosecutors will try to use those statements against them. It’s almost always a bad idea to waive your right to remain silent and to make statements without a lawyer. That’s the first and biggest thing that can hurt a person.

The second biggest thing that can hurt a person is consenting to searches. Whenever police need to search either a car or a house or a living space without a search warrant, they need either probable cause or they need your consent. Typically, when a cop comes up and asks you if they can search your car or your house, it means that they don’t have the ability to search it otherwise. They don’t have a warrant or they don’t have probable cause. Once a person has said yes, they forfeit all ability to challenge that search later on unless they could show that they were forced or coerced physically or threatened into consenting to the search, which is difficult. Never consent to searches.