A felony arrest can have serious life-long consequences. Felony charges can result in imprisonment and loss of voting rights, gun ownership rights & professional licenses. A criminal record can also make finding work and housing very difficult. Being charged with a felony can be a very intimidating ordeal.
Speaking with a competent felony defense attorney can answer many of your questions, and provide peace of mind. The criminal defense attorneys at Dugan & Leger, PLLC are here to answer your questions and fight for your rights.
The criminal defense lawyers at Dugan & Leger, PLLC do more than offer high quality criminal defense services at affordable prices. We will answer questions such as what happens after being charged with a felony, what are the consequences of a felony charge, and how to fight felony charges.
If you or a loved one charged with a felony, contact us to protect your rights.
Frequently Asked Felony Defense Questions
What Happens after being charged with a felony?
Being arrested for a felony is a very serious situation. The police are not concerned with telling you the process, and information about what happens after an arrest is difficult to find. The following is a step by step illustration of the felony criminal process.
Most felony charges begin in the investigation phase. Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) either witnesses a felony being committed, or are provided information that someone has / is /will commit a felony. A LEO will then act on this information, and begin collecting evidence, such as interviewing witnesses, doing a “stake-out”, or setting up a controlled drug buy/sale.
If a LEO personally witnesses a felony being committed, they may arrest the person on the spot. If not, a LEO is required to obtain a warrant before making a felony arrest. The warrant requirement comes from the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution. In North Carolina, a warrant requires several elements, including probable cause, a statement of the crime, jurisdiction, and a disinterested judge’s signature. In either situation, a LEO will detain the accused and transport them to the local detention center.
After the accused is physically detained, the next step will be the arraignment. This takes place with a few days after the arrest, and is the initial appearance before the court. Here, the Judge will ask you to respond to the criminal charges. You have several options.
- Guilty Plea – you accept responsibility immediate, waiving your rights to a jury trial or to face your accusers. He judge will accept your plea and schedule a sentencing hearing.
- Not Guilty – You deny the charges against you. The judge will note your plea and determine the issue of bond
- Alford Plea – You neither deny nor accept responsibility for the charged crimes. Alford pleas preserve appeal rights and cannot be used against the accused in a subsequent civil trial
- “Standing Mute” – the accused does not respond at all, the Judge will enter a plea of not guilty. A person may stand mute to deny the process up to that point, such as where a defendant will challenge the jurisdiction of the court over him.
If the accused enters a plea of Not Guilty, the Judge will then set a bond. Bond may be secured, requiring money or property be deposited with the Court to guarantee your continued appearances during the process, or unsecured, in which the accused is released on either his own custody or under the custody of another person or entity, such as the department of probation.
If the accused enters a Not Guilty plea, the Court will inquire into counsel. A person may qualify for a court appointed attorney based on income and available assets. The accused may need to file an Affidavit of Indigency which will illustrate the accused’s ability to pay. Depending on where the accused is tried, there may be a public defender appointed, or the court may appoint an independent, practicing criminal defense attorney to represent the accused. The accused may seek to hire an attorney on his own, or may have an attorney already on retainer; which means the accused has paid an attorney in advance to reserve that attorney’s representation if and when it is needed.
Following the Arraignment Phase, the accused will either be released or will be detained further, often at the County Detention Center. During the Discovery Phase, the attorney will speak with witnesses, interview the LEOs, and review the paperwork contained in the accused’s “file” with the District Attorney. During this time, the attorney will begin to develop the case, looking for possible defenses or violations of the accused’s rights.
During the discovery phase and before the negotiations phase, the attorney may file a series of motions. Motions are requests, in which the attorney asks the court to do something, based on facts or law. Examples of Motions include: Motions to Reduce Bond, Motions to Suppress Evidence, and Motions to Dismiss Chagres. Depending on the facts, the law, and the motion, many things that may affect the outcome of the case are decided during the Motions Phase.
After the Motions Phase, the attorney defending the accused will try to negotiate a plea deal for the accused. Often, the District Attorney is willing to reduce charges, or impose less harsh sentences in exchange for the accused’s admission of guilt.
Recent studies show that upwards of 90 Percent of criminal cases end during the Negotiations Phase! This alarming trend reveals how much pressure a criminal defendant is under to avoid the harsh punishments that may be imposed if the accused loses at trial. The fear of losing at trial, the high cost of fighting a criminal charge, and out of reach bail numbers forcing the accused to sit in jail waiting for trial, all contribute to this national crisis.
For the few who make it past the negotiations page, the Trial Phase awaits. Before the trial, there will be a conference where trial motions, such as Motions in Limine, will be heard. This gives the Judge a chance to rule on the admissibility of evidence before it comes out in trial.
The trial process begins with voir dire; where a Jury of 12 peers will be selected to hear the case. Next, each party will give an opening statement which introduces the jury to the case and predicts what the evidence will show. Then each side will present evidence, which is done by calling witnesses. The opposing party will have a chance to cross examine every witness that is called. Finally, each party will give a closing argument, which summarizes the evidence and asks the jury to return a favorable verdict.
If the accused is found not guilty, the process ends, and the accused person is released from custody. Certain items that were seized by the police may be returned. Bail moneys will be returned. The State may or may not be able to appeal the trial.
If the accused is found guilty, the Judge will either sentence the defendant immediately after the trial, or may schedule a sentencing hearing to determine the scope of the punishment to be imposed.
The final stage of the Criminal process is the appeals stage. Each appeal will typically go the Court one tier higher. For instance, an appeal for the Superior Court will typically go the the Court of Appeals, from the Court of Appeals to the North Carolina Supreme Court. However, a defendant may appeal directly to the Federal Courts if there was a violation of the defendant’s US Constitutional rights. The Appeal may go directly before the US Supreme Court, but will generally begin with the Federal District Court. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (“4th Cir”) is the appropriate Federal Court for cases arising in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
The criminal process has many steps. While these steps can make a criminal prosecution a long, drawn out and inefficient process, they do serve a purpose in ensuring the criminally accused are provided due process of law. Like the process itself, there are many rules that regulate government action. A violation of any step, any rule, or any regulation may be sufficient to justify dismissal of the criminal charges. That is why it is so important to hire a competent criminal defense attorney if you or someone close to you is charged with a felony.
All content is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not intended, nor should it be considered legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by this post. To speak with a felony defense attorney, contact Dugan & Leger at 910-253-5400.