The amount of time it takes to resolve a criminal case – whether for a felony or a misdemeanor charge – varies. In Oklahoma, the entire process progresses through many steps, and whether one step happens depends on the outcome of the previous.
The criminal court process begins with an arrest. In some instances, local law enforcement will begin an investigation and collect evidence related to the case. When they believe they have probable cause to make an arrest, they will submit their findings to a judge who will issue a warrant.
In other instances, the alleged crime may have been committed in the presence of an officer, and they might arrest the alleged suspect immediately after the offense occurred.
The Prosecuting Attorney’s Investigation
Law enforcement will submit a charging request to the Prosecuting Attorney (PA), who is responsible for reviewing the case information and determining if there is sufficient evidence to prosecute. The PA might decide to drop the charges if there is insufficient evidence.
However, if they believe they have enough evidence to prove a crime was committed, they will move forward with the case. They may proceed with charges as originally submitted or with additional charges if the evidence demonstrates other offenses were committed.
After the prosecutor has issued charges, the defendant will be scheduled for an arraignment. During this process, a judge will explain the charges to the defendant and the penalties for a conviction.
If the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, they enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at the arraignment. The defendant and their attorney can also go into a pretrial conference with the prosecutor to attempt to negotiate a plea deal and resolve the case before going to trial.
In felony cases, the defendant does not enter a plea at the arraignment. Rather, the defendant and their attorney go into a pre-exam conference to see if a plea can be worked out.
The defendant may also go through a felony preliminary examination hearing, where the PA attempts to demonstrate, by calling witnesses, there is probable cause that the defendant committed the alleged crime. If the judge determines there is probable cause, the case will go to trial.
During a criminal trial, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant committed the crime. The defendant’s lawyer will challenge the evidence presented by the prosecutor.
If the judge or jury hearing the case finds the defendant innocent, the trial ends. However, if they decide the defendant is guilty, the case moves to sentencing. Ultimately, the final penalties are delivered by the judge who takes various factors into consideration when making the determination.
Call the Law Offices of Keith J. Nedwick, P.C. at (866) 590-8173
If you are facing charges, contact our team for superior legal representation. We have a combined 50 years of legal experience adeptly handling the criminal court process. Our lawyers are committed to providing you with the personalized attention your case deserves.
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