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Criminal Defense Case

What Happens at Sentencing

In minor misdemeanor cases, judges frequently hand down sentences immediately after the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, or is found guilty af...

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The "Standard Deal": Whether It Exists and How to Get It

Just as in other negotiations, such as those of a buyer and seller in a real estate transaction, there are strategies involved in plea bargaining.

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Pleading Guilty: What Happens in Court

Once the deal is worked out, the prosecution and defense will arrange a court hearing and inform the judge about the agreement.

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Why Judges and Prosecutors Engage in Plea Bargaining

For judges, the primary incentive to accept plea bargains is to move along their crowded calendars. Most judges simply don’t have time to try ever...

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The Benefits of a Plea Bargain

For most defendants, the principal benefit to plea bargaining is receiving a lighter sentence for a less severe charge than might result from a conv...

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The Basics of a Plea Bargain

A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest (nolo contendere) ...

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First Offender Programs

A "first offender" program is a type of diversion, but only for those who have no previous criminal record (usually traffic tickets don’t count, but...

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Do I Need a Lawyer When I'm Charged with a Crime?

Defendants charged with crimes are almost always best served by obtaining a lawyer, for the reasons explained below.

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All About Preliminary Hearings, or “Prelims”

Preliminary hearings, often referred to as "prelims," require the prosecutor to show enough credible evidence to a judge to convince that judge to sen...

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Testifying Before a Grand Jury

Your rights in a grand jury room -- whether called as a witness or as the target of the investigation -- are very limited.

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Grand Jury Basics

A grand jury is a group of citizens that hears evidence presented by the prosecutor and decides whether there's probable cause to believe that a crime...

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Arrests That Don’t Result in Criminal Charges

Many factors go into a prosecutor's decision not to file charges against an arrested suspect.

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How the Prosecutor Decides Which Cases to Charge

Police officers arrest suspects, but prosecutors decide whether to file formal charges against suspects. Learn how charges are filed and what factors...

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Violating Conditions of O.R.

Failing to abide by the conditions of your OR release can land you in jail.

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How Judges Decide to Release You on Your Own Recognizance, or "OR"

If you promise to show up for court appearances and the judge believes you, you'll get "ORed," or released on your own recognizance.

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What happens if I fail to show up in court after bailing out of jail?

Bail jumpers face the loss of the bail amount, plus a warrant for their arrest.

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Limits to How Much Bail the Judge Can Require

Bail should not be used to punish a defendant, or raise money for the state. Its valid use is to secure the defendant's presence at trial.

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Convincing a Judge to Lower the Initial Bail

A defendant with strong ties to the community is not likely to flee--and may warrant a lowered bail because of it.

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How Judges Set Bail

Judges set bail based initially on a "bail schedule," but they can raise or lower the amount, based on the circumstances of the case.

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Acceptable Forms of Bail

Bail helps ensure that defendant show up in court.

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Getting Information About and Helping Booked Arrestees

Sometimes, a local bail bondsman may have the most up-to-date information. Booked arrestees with health issues can be helped by contacting the jail di...

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Your Rights During Booking

Suspects aren't entitled to Miranda warnings during booking -- and should avoid any unnecessary conversations.

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What Happens During Booking?

Defendants who are taken to jail are normally booked shortly upon arrival.

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Arrests Without Initial Probable Cause

Can facts learned after the arrest support an arrest that was without probable cause at the time?

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Arrest Warrants: What's in Them, How Police Get Them

Police must convince a neutral judge that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and the subject of the warrant was involved.

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When the Police Can Make an Arrest: Probable Cause

"Probable cause" requires more than a mere suspicion that a suspect committed a crime, but not as much information as would be required to prove a sus...

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What Is an Arrest?

Whether a person is "under arrest" depends on the circumstances of the police encounter.

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Sentencing Alternatives: Prison, Probation, Fines, and Community Service

Criminal sentences may involve one or more different elements, including incarceration (prison, jail), probation, restitution (victim compensation), a...

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Defendants' Incentives for Accepting Plea Bargains

The crowding of criminal courts puts pressure on judges and prosecutors to resolve cases quickly. This provides defendants with an opportunity to neg...

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Criminal Trial Procedures: An Overview

The many rituals followed in criminal trials have developed over centuries. America's common law heritage makes it possible for all states and the fed...

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Criminal Charges: How Cases Get Started

To be "charged" with a crime means to be formally accused of that crime. Police officers usually start the charging process with an arrest or citation...

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Bail: Getting Out of Jail After an Arrest

A person's first thought upon landing in jail is often how to get out -- and fast. The usual way to do this is to "post bail". Bail is cash or a cash ...

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Guidelines for Talking to the Police

Time-tested rules of thumb when it comes to speaking with a police officer.

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When to Answer a Police Officer's Questions

In some circumstances, it may be helpful to speak with police officers, but you may also want to delay the conversation.

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Demanding Identification from People on the Street

Many states have “stop and identify” laws. Under these laws, if a police officer reasonably suspects that someone has engaged in criminal activity...

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Stopping and Questioning People on the Street

Police officers may seek information from people whom they have no immediate intention of arresting, whether they are suspects or simply appear to be ...

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Diversion Programs

Diversion and first offender programs give some defendants a way to manage the charges against them without going to trial or pleading guilty.

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