Steps of Criminal Defense

Steps of the Criminal-Defense Process

The Arrest & Booking, Bail, Arraignment & Plea

In this two-part series, we are going to review the steps of the criminal process and briefly explain the sequence of events that occur if you are arrested.

Arrested & Booked

In Delaware, you only can be arrested if a police officer witnesses you committing a crime, or if an arrest warrant is issued by a judge based on probable cause. Once you are arrested and informed of your rights, the next step is the booking. This is when the arrested party surrenders their personal effects and is then fingerprinted and photographed.

Setting of Bail

The setting of bail occurs at the first court appearance. A judge will set a bail bond, which is based on criminal history, flight risk and the potential danger that the arrested party presents to the community. An individual under arrest could be released on a signature bond, a cash bond, an unsecured bond or a secured bond after signing a promise to return to court and to follow any court-imposed conditions.

Arraignment & Plea

An arraignment generally occurs within 24 hours of an arrest. It takes place in the court of common pleas or in the municipal court. A judge advises the arrested party of the charges they are facing and their right to a jury trial. It also is also possible to request that a case heard by a single judge. Lastly, the arrested party must enter a plea. Pleading guilty means that there will be no trial and that the party entering the plea gives up their right to remain silent.

Nolo Contendre

If a plea of “nolo contendre” is entered, it means that the charges are being contested and that the court considers this a guilty plea. Additionally, it means that the criminal record of the case cannot be used if a civil lawsuit is filed. The state would have to prove its case against at trial if a plea of not guilty is entered.

Pleading nolo contendre means that the criminal record of your case can’t be used as evidence if anyone files a civil lawsuit against you. If you plead not guilty, it forces the state to prove its case against you at trial.

Next up: We will look at plea-bargaining, preliminary hearings and grand jury proceedings, and the trial and the sentencing process in summarizing the steps of the criminal process.