What Happens During a Criminal Trial in Alabama?
The criminal process in Alabama can be intimidating and complicated. Each case is different, and prosecutors employ unique approaches and relentless arguments to pursue convictions. In this situation, you may be left wondering how things will proceed during a criminal court trial.
To begin with, you should know that the underlying fundamental aspects of a criminal trial in Alabama remain the same in each case. But ultimately, it depends on the ability and experience of your criminal defense attorney in Alabama to identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s claims during the trial and protect your rights throughout the process.
Arrest and Booking
The first step in the criminal trial process involves investigation, arrest, and booking. These are done based on preliminary charges. Law enforcement authorities will arrest you only if they have probable cause. You will either be booked at a police station or jail. Complaints from other people are sometimes enough to get arrested and booked in county jail.
The police will take your mug shots and fingerprints during the booking process. Officers will try to interrogate you at this time. You should understand that you are under no legal obligation to answer their questions. Instead, you should ask for a criminal defense attorney right away.
An arraignment will be your first court appearance after you are charged with a crime. You will be told about the charges you are facing, and the bail amount set. It is important to understand that all types of crimes are not eligible for bail. If you have been booked on felony charges, you will be informed about the process to request a preliminary hearing.
Defendants are allowed to request a preliminary hearing if they are charged with felony crimes in Alabama. During preliminary hearings, the state presents evidence against the defendant. The judge considers the evidence to understand whether it establishes probable cause or not.
The judge may also determine whether the charges should be reduced to a misdemeanor based on the evidence collected and the circumstances leading up to the crime. Hence, preliminary hearings are important, and you should have a veteran criminal defense attorney by your side to advocate for your rights.
Grand Jury Indictment
If you are facing felony charges and probable cause gets established, the next step will involve convening a grand jury. This is to determine the availability of sufficient evidence for indicting the defendant on proposed charges. Your case will be transferred to the Alabama circuit court if the grand jury determines that an indictment is necessary.
Before your case is moved to trial, your attorney will try to work with prosecutors to determine whether a plea bargain can be entered. This will help avoid an actual trial. In most cases, plea bargains have lenient penalties and sentences as compared to convictions. You have the last say in accepting a plea bargain.
Criminal cases that are not dismissed at the preliminary hearing move forward to trial. Several pretrial motions are filed by both parties and answered in the period leading up to the trial. For instance, your criminal defense attorney may file a motion for a change of venue or to suppress certain evidence.
Alabama circuit courts are of two types – a bench trial and a jury trial. Bench trial involves only the judge, who makes the final decision on the verdict. In a jury trial, a panel of your peers will decide whether you are guilty or innocent. The jury is decided by the prosecutor and defendant in agreement. If the jury returns with a guilty verdict, the judge will set a date to issue the sentence as appropriate for your particular situation.
Sentencing can include fines, jail time, probation, or a combination of these. It may also involve other consequences as stated within Alabama’s general criminal sentencing guidelines. The judge can consider specific unique circumstances related to your crime to make the sentence harsher or lenient.
You have the opportunity to appeal the sentence whether you are facing a felony or misdemeanor conviction. The time frame to file an appeal depends on the type of crime you are convicted of. You should work with a proven criminal defense attorney to understand more about this process.
In Alabama, all criminal defendants are allowed to appeal a guilty verdict. You can go up at least one level of the appellate court for this purpose. The highest court is the Alabama Supreme Court. Most cases are resolved in the mid-level court system, called the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.
It’s critical that you have a determined criminal defense attorney advocate for your rights by preparing a solid appeal based on fresh strategies. This is someone who’s been around the legal corners before and knows what can be hiding in the shadows.
Get Legal Representation from an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
The attorneys at Alsobrook Law Group will be by your side during the entire criminal trial process and fight hard on your behalf to have the charges dropped or reduced. Our attorneys will negotiate with the other side when necessary and provide you with the right legal advice depending on the facts and circumstances of your case.
To schedule your free consultation, call us at 334-737-3718 or fill out this online contact form.