If you have been arrested and released or charged with a crime, you will be given a date to appear in court (This is usually about 30 days after the arrest). If you hire an attorney, the attorney can usually make this appearance for you without your presence. After reviewing the police report, the State will then decide whether or not to file the case. If the State decides to go forward and file the case, it prepares an information and files this with the Court. Once the information has been filed, your case is set on the Court’s docket.
Once your case has been filed and set on the Court’s docket, it will go through a series of settings. Generally, if you have hired an attorney, you will not need to be present for these settings unless specifically directed by the Court. During these settings, your attorney will review your case, consult with the State, and determine the best course of action to take. Your attorney should also ensure that all proper procedure has been followed regarding your case, and that your constitutional rights have not been violated. Such violations may result in your attorney having the case dismissed.
Your attorney may obtain an “offer” from the State. This may include reduced jail time, reduced fines, probation or deferred adjudication, or even a reduced charge. Your attorney will negotiate the best deal possible based upon the facts of your case and any flaws he may find in the State’s evidence. Your attorney may advise you as to whether or not to accept the offer, but ultimately, the decision on how to proceed is entirely yours. A lawyer may not force you into any agreement to which you do not consent.
If an agreement cannot be met during this series of settings (usually 6 to 9 weeks long), the State will choose to either drop the case or set it for trial (It is extremely rare that the State will decide to dismiss the case at this point, so most likely the case will be set for trial). You may request a bench trial, wherein your case is presented before a Judge, or a jury trial, wherein a jury of your peers will hear the case. Your attorney may also set up hearings to discuss various issues with the court while preparing for trial. One common hearing is a Motion to Suppress Hearing, wherein your attorney may attempt to have some or all of the evidence against you thrown out if your constitutional rights have been violated.
Finally, if your case has not yet been disposed of, the State will proceed with trial. If you have chosen a jury trial and your case is a misdemeanor, the trial will be heard by a jury of six. If you have chosen a jury trial and your case is a felony, the trial will be heard by a jury of twelve.