Idaho Criminal Defense Lawyer

Finding yourself on the wrong side of the law can be a frightening experience, especially for the uninitiated. Things typically happen very quickly, and it is easy to say the wrong thing in a panic, and end up incriminating yourself or another person without meaning to.

Once you have been arrested, the next stage of the process involves a series of courts, and the decisions you make along the way will impact the courts and professionals you interact with. There are a range of courts you may find yourself coming into contact with, and familiarizing yourself with these can be helpful.

The Magistrate Court

Once the arrest warrant has been served, the first court you will encounter is the Magistrates court, where you will undergo an arraignment – this must occur within 24 hours of the arrest. In this step, the allegations will be read by the court, as well as the rights of the defendant.
There are several rights which will be read:

During this step, the judge will need to consider bail, if this has not been set with the arrest warrant. Here, the court will consider the likelihood of you attending future court hearings, the risk posed to the community, your past record, any other allegations, and your personal
life and situation.

While in the magistrates court, you will also have the preliminary hearing – this may be upgraded to a grand jury if the prosecutor makes the case. Here, the magistrate judge will need to uncover substantial evidence that the defendant has committed a crime, and can
then send the case to the district court. The case can also go to district court if the defendant
chooses to waive the hearing.

District Court

At the district court, the judge assigned will typically oversee the rest of the proceedings. Here, the defendant is presented with an “information”, have their rights read, and be informed of the consequences of a guilty plea. The defendant then makes their plea – a guilty plea means that the date is set for sentencing, while a not guilty plea means that a case is set for a pretrial conference and jury trial. If a not guilty plea is entered, the time between this plea and the pretrial conference is crucial – during this gap, the state is obligated to disclose all evidence in its possession. At the same time, you and your attorney will be completing your own thorough investigation.
Before the trial, the judge will call a pre-trial conference to determine whether or not the parties are ready for trial. This includes ensuring that all pretrial orders have been met, and that everything is ready to go. In some cases, the case may be able to be resolved at this point.

Jury or Bench Trial

If the case has not been resolved, the next stage is a trial – here, the prosecutor must prove each element of the crime “beyond reasonable doubt”. During the trial, all rules of evidence must be followed, this includes what evidence will or will not be allowed – for the defendant, this means that the aim is to get as much of the state’s evidence thrown out as possible.

There are two main types of trial: jury trial, or bench trial, but the only real difference is that a judge is finder of the facts in the latter, rather than a jury. It is the constitutional right of every defendant to have a jury trial, but you also have the option to request a bench trial.

During the course of the trial, the defendant is permitted to subpoena their own witness, cross examine the state’s witnesses, and, in some cases, call expert witnesses if applicable. Any evidence bearing on the innocence of the accused will also be entered, allowing the judge
or jury to reach a verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, the next stage is sentencing, but before this occurs there will be a “pre-sentence investigation”, designed to determine whether community supervision is a potential sentence, based on a number of conditions and facts about the individual. The judge will consider a range of factors, including but not limited to:

Once all of these factors have been considered, the judge will sentence the defendant. It is important that you have an experienced, qualified legal professional on hand to help ensure that your legal process runs as smoothly as possible, to maximize your chances of success.

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