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What Happens When You Are Arrested?

First Appearance Within 24 hours of being arrested, you will appear before a judge. The judge will:

  • Tell you the charge(s) for which you have been arrested.
  • Determine if the police had sufficient probable cause to arrest you for charges.
  • Inquire if you will hire a private attorney to represent you or determine whether you qualify for the services of an attorney with the Public Defender's Office.
  • If you qualify for our services, the judge will start the process to get the Public Defender's Office appointed to your case. Before our office can assist you, the Public Defender's Office must be appointed by the court.
  • Decide if bail is allowed in your case, and if so, how much.

Intake Once the Public Defender's Office is appointed to your case, if you remain in custody, someone from our office will come to see you. That person may be an Assistant Public Defender, a Witness Interviewer, an Investigator, or an Intern. You will be asked a series of questions, which you should answer as completely and honestly as you can. Even though the person asking the questions may not be an attorney, the information you give is confidential and will be given to your attorney.

Filing Charges and Arraignment If you are in custody, the State Attorney has 30 days from your arrest date to file formal charges against you. On the 30th day, the court shall order you automatically released on the 33rd day, provided notice has been given to the State Attorney's Office and they have not filed formal charges by that date. Or, if the State Attorney does not show good cause, the court shall order you automatically released on the 40th day, unless the State Attorney's Office files charges by that date. It is up to the State Attorney whether or not to file charges against you. After formal charges have been filed against you, you will be arraigned. At that time, the filed charges will be read to you and your attorney will enter a plea for you. If you plead not guilty, your attorney will request a trial.

Pleas There are three kinds of pleas: (1) Not guilty; (2) Guilty; and (3) Nolo Contendere (no contest). Not guilty pleas are entered when you are innocent, when you want to demand a trial, or when you don't know which plea to enter. If you want to plead guilty or no contest, you must be able to convince the judge that no one is forcing you to plead guilty or no contest and that you know what you're doing. If you plead guilty, you are admitting you committed the crime. If you pled no contest, a judge will be allowed to find you guilty without you having to admit guilt. If you plead guilty or no contest, you give up your right to a trial or to an appeal. If they have your permission, your attorney may talk to the Assistant State Attorney in your case to negotiate a plea. A negotiated plea is an agreement between your attorney (who is acting on your behalf) and the State Attorney for a reduction of charges or dismissal of charges or a specific sentence. You must approve a negotiated plea and the judge does not have to accept a negotiated plea agreement.

Getting Ready for Trial Once you decide to go to trial, your attorney will file motions to get information related to your case. Your attorney will come to visit you if you are in custody (or ask you to come to our office if you are out of custody) to discuss your case. Please remember that all communication between you and your attorney is confidential. Do not discuss your case with anyone but your attorney or where anyone may overhear you. Once your case is ready for trial, your attorney will explain all the facts of your case and tell you about which defenses you may use. He/She will explain your legal options, as well as any possible sentence if you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial.

Trial If you go to trial, you and your attorney will decide whether you want a jury trial or a non-jury trial. In a jury trial, six or more people will decide whether you are responsible for the crime for which you have been charged. In a non-jury trial, the judge decides if you are guilty or not. If you decide you want a jury trial, you must decide whether or not you will testify in your trial. You are not required to testify. If you are having a jury trial, the Assistant State Attorney and your Assistant Public Defender will question the prospective jurors and decide which ones will hear your case. You will be allowed to assist in the jury selection. After the jury is selected, the actual trial will start. Both sides will make an opening statement to tell the jury their view of your case. First, the State Attorney will introduce their witnesses and evidence. Your attorney will be allowed to ask questions. Next, your attorney will present your witnesses and evidence. The Assistant State Attorney will be allowed to ask questions. After all the evidence on both sides is presented, both attorneys will make closing arguments. If there is a jury, the judge will tell the jury about the laws that apply to your case. The jury then goes into the jury room and decides what the verdict will be. The verdict must be unanimous. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, then the judge will declare a mistrial and you will have another trial at a later date.