When a crime has been committed, there are certain procedures that take place, including a determination if there is sufficient evidence to bring that case to trial. It is the role of a criminal lawyer to represent those accused of a crime and prepare for the defense of that client if a trial will be held. Of course, it would be better to avoid a trial completely; such a result is dependent on many variables, including the knowledge and court room experience of the defense attorney who will be handling the case for a client.
What Happens First?
When an arrest has been made, information available at that time is reviewed by a lawyer from the district attorney’s office. The choices are usually:
- Charge the accused with a misdemeanor and file an official complaint with the trial court.
- Charge the accused with a felony and forward the case to the grand jury for an indictment.
- Determine that no charges will be filed.
The time frame in which this is done varies depending on the length of the investigation and whether or not the accused is waiting in jail.
Prosecutor’s Role In Decision Process
Although it is most common for a prosecuting attorney to decide whether or not to file charges based on the evidence that has been presented, there may be certain other elements that can influence that decision.
- Local Community Influences – A city or community may have an influence on how local prosecutors approach certain crimes that are committed. A particular locality may look unkindly on perhaps DWI offenses and do not want to see any plea bargaining take place.
- Local Prosecutors Sense of Justice – Whether or not the prosecution of a particular offense will best serve community interests by filing charges and incurring the time and expense of a trial can enter into making a choice about whether to file and what charges to consider.
- Local Prosecutors As Elected Officials – Since at least the top person in a District Attorney’s office is an elected official, whether or not to prosecute certain offenses may be influenced by individual political ambitions and the influence of local supporters.
Grand Jury’s Role
A prosecutor can decide to let a Grand Jury determine if criminal charges should be filed. If this is the case, jurors are presented with the possible charges – called a bill – and usually enough evidence to show that a crime has been committed. These proceedings are not open to either the accused party or any representing criminal lawyer; such action is done behind doors closed to the public.
If a decision is made to indict an accused person, then charges are filed. If the grand jury does not indict, a prosecutor has the option to return at a later date with additional evidence and seek an indictment at that time.
In the case of felony charges, the accused has the option of requesting that a preliminary hearing or examining trial be held before a judge, requiring the District Attorney to present evidence showing there is sufficient cause for charges to be filed. Most of the details of filing criminal charges is not known to individuals who have been accused of a crime; this is why it is so important to have the help and guidance of a criminal lawyer who is experienced in all parts of the criminal case handling procedures!
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520