Most people assume that in order for a criminal case to be brought against you, you must be arrested first. What most people don’t realize is that a criminal case can be brought against you one of three different ways. This blog will discuss each option. In a nutshell, regardless of how you end up in court under the three options below, once you are in court, criminal cases all follow the same procedure — initial hearing, bond reviews where appropriate, hearings on no contact orders where appropriate, multiple pre-trial conferences/status hearings, omnibus dates/pleading deadlines, final pre-trial conferences, hearings on pre-trial motions and motions to suppress, guilty plea/sentences, and/or trial dates. If a defendant remains free on bond, cases tend to last longer. However, if a defendant is still in custody dates may move much quicker, especially if a speedy trial is requested. Many times, when available, defense attorneys may move to address bond to try to get their clients out of jail as well. To read about that topic, click here.
SUMMONS TO APPEAR
The easiest and most preferred method that a case gets brought before a criminal judge is through a summons. Many people are familiar with a summons if they have ever had a speeding ticket, been summoned for jury duty, been a part of a civil case, and/or given a deposition, etc. In it’s simplest form, a summons is a promise to appear in court (or a certain place) on a given date and at a certain time.
A summons in a criminal case is amazing as it gives the defendant a chance to plan, to hire counsel, to save money, and prepare a defense. Usually a summons is offered in lower level offenses where the defendant does not pose a danger to society and/or in cases where the defendant has a very limited criminal history.
Obviously, it goes without saying, if you fail to appear for a summons date, a warrant will be issued in its place. That’s why it’s crucial if you are involved with police and they issue you a summons to appear that you give them an address where you actually live. Otherwise, the summons will be mailed to a place you won’t receive it — and that’s not an excuse to miss court.
This is by far the most common way a case gets brought to the county court where it is filed. Usually, a defendant is caught in the act doing something criminal in nature, and as a result, the police arrest them right away. This is common where the police actually witness the criminal behavior or they believe the criminal behavior is so egregious as to warrant removing the defendant from the general population for their safety or someone else.
For example, let’s take a very common case – a DUI. When someone is caught driving drunk, the police are going to remove that person from the car, place them under arrest, and bring them to jail. At that point the, the prosecutor’s office takes over and decides whether the probable cause affidavit provided by the arresting officer is enough to warrant the bringing of formal criminal charges against the defendant. Once that case is officially filed by the prosecutor’s office, the defendant is required to appear before a judge for their initial hearing/formal arraignment on the charges. It makes sense that someone would be arrested outright in a case like this because it would be dangerous for the officer to only summons the person into court and allow them to drive home (for obvious reasons).
In these circumstances, it’s obvious a case is being brought against you and that criminal charges are pending. Upon being released, or while defendants remain in custody and family members jump in to help, many decide to contact a lawyer for help defending their cases. While suffering through the arrest and (hopefully) short stent incarcerated, at least the defendant knows what they are facing, when the next court dates are, and the maximum and minimum penalties for each.
It’s when charges aren’t immediately brought that people are forced to sweat it out — be it awaiting probable cause to be found, for the grand jury to investigate, and/or for a body attachment to issue.
WARRANTS & BODY ATTACHMENTS – PROBABLE CAUSE & GRAND JURY
Many times, our phone rings at our office, the person on the other end is extremely worried about potential charges being brought against them. Sometimes, however, the person is 100% unaware that a case could be brought against them. Either way, both of these examples almost always result in a warrant of some type. And, if the defendant is not self-aware, it’s possible they get picked up on the warrant without planning for it — albeit at work, home, or driving around.
A probable cause warrant is just as it sounds. The prosecutor’s office, having reviewed a case for filing, decides to file it, then submits it to a judge for a warrant. The judge then issues a warrant asking for a body attachment. Probable cause warrants often occur in cases where a detective has been assigned to investigate an allegation. Those allegations usually require time to investigate and may involve criminal behavior or a long period of time, sometime in the past, and/or the defendant was not caught in the actual act of committing the offense. Typical probable cause warrants involve assaults and batteries where the defendant is not found at the scene, sex crime cases, violent offenses like murder, burglaries/robberies where the defendant is not found at the scene, and some white-collar crimes.
There are times when the prosecutor may convene what’s called a grand jury. Those are confidential and closed hearings where the prosecutor presents their evidence to a jury prior to filing charges. If the grand jury finds that the evidence is sufficient, an indictment and/or formal charges will be filed thereafter. That can result in a warrant and/or summons as well — but, typically a warrant.
If a defendant is anticipating a criminal charge might be coming, often times they will hire our firm to investigate if criminal charges are coming and/or to be on the lookout for a warrant(s) to appear. The advantage to that is the defense firm can have a game plan in place should charges be brought. Having a game plan can make the case go much smoother. Sometimes, if the attorney catches the warrant before the defendant is picked up by police, they can negotiate their surrender or release before ever going to court.
However, sometimes the defendant is 100% unaware the case is coming. Especially if no one has tipped them off that an investigator is digging around and talking to witnesses. If that happens, a warrant may issue without the defendant and/or that person’s family knowing it is coming. That leaves family members scrambling to find help while their loved one is in custody. While this can be devastating to a family, a good criminal defense attorney can usually step in at any time and assist a family through this difficult period.
As anyone can see, while how a case gets brought varies from case to case, having an attorney with you from the beginning is incredibly important. An experienced attorney can walk you through the options and can explain the solutions. If you or a loved one are facing a pending or potential criminal case, call the experienced Indianapolis Criminal Defense Lawyers at Banks & Brower, LLC today at (317) 870-0019 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.