When Mississippi residents are arrested and charged with a crime, the emotions and confusion can be sky-high. For many people, they have never been through the process before. After the initial shock of the arrest begins to wear off, the questions start to come up. First and foremost, how will your criminal case proceed through the courts?
Understanding the process
The process of a criminal case can seem confusing to someone who has never been through that situation before. A criminal case starts for a defendant, obviously, with an arrest – although some criminal investigations start long before any arrests occur. After a defendant is arrested, usually “bail” is set by a judge. This is a set monetary amount that, if the defendant can pay it, allows the defendant to get out of jail while the criminal case is pending.
From there, the defendant will usually be required to appear in court so that a judge can inform the defendant of the charges in the case and take a preliminary plea from the defendant. Most defendants plead “not guilty” at the start of their cases. From there, a case will usually wind its way toward a trial date being set.
But, between the initial stages of the case and the trial date, much can occur. Some defendants begin to negotiate plea bargains with the prosecution. Others will dig into the “discovery” phase of the case, in which both sides exchange the evidence they will use if the case goes to trial. If it occurs, the trial is typically the last stage of a criminal case. A trial could be in front of just a judge, or in front of a jury.