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What should first-time offenders know about criminal charges?

On Behalf of | Mar 25, 2024 | Criminal Law |

Finding yourself involved in a criminal case is stressful. After all, the consequences can be life-changing, ranging from fines and probation to possible imprisonment.

This uncertainty can be especially difficult to handle if you are a first-time offender with little experience with the criminal justice system. Familiarizing yourself with the process can be helpful.

After your arrest

After your arrest and booking, the prosecutor’s office reviews the evidence and details of your case. Based on this review, they decide whether to file formal charges and, if so, what those charges should be. If the prosecutor decides to proceed with charges, the next step often involves determining your eligibility for bail. Once you know the charges you are facing, seeking representation and preparing your defense before your arraignment is a good idea.

Appearing in court

Your first appearance in court is the arraignment, where you hear the formal charges against you. At this point, you can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. Choosing the appropriate plea can significantly impact the direction of your case.

In the pre-trial phase, there might be several hearings and legal proceedings. Sometimes, it is even possible to resolve a case without going to trial.

Before the trial begins, you can further develop your defense strategy. Depending on the circumstances, you can receive information about the evidence against you during this pre-trial stage.

Trials and sentencing

Your case may go to trial before a judge or a judge and jury. During the trial, both sides present their evidence and arguments. The judge or jury decides on your guilt or innocence based on the information presented.

If they find you guilty, the final step is sentencing. The judge determines your punishment, which could range from probation and community service to imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime and other factors. Your lack of criminal history could result in a less severe sentence for some criminal charges, such as a first offense DWI.

If you are facing criminal charges in Texas for the first time, being aware of the potential outcomes at each stage can help you manage your expectations and prepare for the consequences of your case.