This is Part Two of an ongoing series of Blog Posts, Charged with a Felony What Happens Now? You can find Part One here. Each part will tackle a different aspect of a felony criminal case from the arrest and complaint to sentencing. Each post is designed to give an explanation of that post's topic, to be used in conjunction with the entire series.
Previously, I went over some of the background information involved with the filing of felony charges, including the different manners in which a Prosecutor can begin a case. Specifically, I explained the differences between a felony Complaint and an Indictment.
For this part, I will be reviewing what happens next after the Complaint or Indictment are filed with the Court. Below I discuss the Arrest, Bond and Arraignment portions of a felony case and what you should know about each so that you can avoid making a mistake.
Arrest, Bond and Arraignment
As discussed in Part One, after a police officer has completed her investigation the next step is for the Prosecutor to seek an Arrest Warrant from the Court. An Arrest Warrant is a legal document issued by a Court that provides the police with the authority to arrest an individual.
In order for a Court to have a basis on which to authorize the police to arrest anyone, a police officer must first complete a Probable Cause Statement, which after being handed over to the Prosecutor is presented to the Court along with the Felony Complaint or Indictment and a request for an Arrest Warrant.
“An arrest warrant is a document issued by a judge or magistrate that authorizes the police to take someone accused of a crime into custody.”
The Probable Cause Statement contains an officer's statement under oath that they have sufficient facts to believe that the defendant committed a crime in their jurisdiction within a certain time frame. After a judge reviews the statement, and agrees there is enough evidence, an Arrest Warrant is issued for the Defendant to be taken into custody.
Often times the act of being arrested is a person's first realization that a felony charge has been filed against them. When this happens, you may not even know why you are being arrested. The arresting officer must make available a copy of the warrant, which states the nature of the charges against you and the amount of any Bond approved by the Court.
Once you are placed into custody by the police, they will process you which involves taking down your personal identifying information (your name, date of birth, address, etc.), getting copies of your fingerprints and updating their computer system to reflect that the warrant was executed and can be inactivated. Next, an officer may try to ask you questions about your case. If this happens, it is important that you exercise your Constitutional right to remain silent and ask to speak with an attorney.
“A Bond is a promise by the Defendant conditioned on his payment of Cash, or Bail posted by a Bondsman, that he will appear at all court dates in his case and refrain from committing any crimes while out on bond.”
If a Bond has been approved and set by the Court, then you may post money equal to the approved Bond and you will be released from custody upon your agreement to appear at all future court dates. An experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney will be able to get your original bond amount lowered, get approval from the Court for the use of a Bondsman, or a combination of the two. When you are released you will be given a bond return date for your initial court appearance.
If you already know that the Prosecutor has filed charges against you and that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, then you can avoid the embarrassment of being arrested and handcuffed in public by contacting a lawyer. With your lawyer's help, you can turn yourself in voluntarily to the police. Your lawyer will make sure that the police know that you are turning yourself in for the sole purpose of taking care of the warrant, to post bail on your bond and confirm that you are not making any statements.
When a bond is posted you are released and you are provided a return date for a Bond Appearance Hearing. The purpose of this hearing is for you to appear in court to show you have not left town and that you are going to participate in the criminal case. Should you fail to appear, then the Court will issue a warrant for your arrest. Additionally, the prosecutor will file a motion to revoke your bond—this means the money you posted for your bond will be lost and you will not get it back at the end of the case.
So long as you do not flee the jurisdiction while out on bond, your bond will not be forfeited or revoked and you will get your money back after your case is finished. The amount you get back will depend on whether there are any court costs or fines, etc., to be paid first out of the bond.
Hiring a bondsman to post a bond for you involves you entering into a contract with that bondsman. Typically, you pay a certain percentage of your bond amount to the bondsman and they will then file with the court what amounts to a promise to pay your full bond amount if you flee and your bond is revoked or forfeited. Unlike when you post the money yourself, when your case is over you will not get your money back from the bondsman.
Other than posting your bond with cash or hiring a bondsman, there are a number of other possible ways in which to post a bond; however, these two are the most commonly used forms of bonds approved by Courts.
When you appear in Court at your Bond Appearance Hearing, or if you are not released and are being held in custody then at your Initial Appearance, you will also have your Arraignment held. At your arraignment, the Court will read out loud in open court the charges that have been filed against you and the possible range of punishment for each charge. You will then be asked to enter either a Plea of Guilty or Plea of Not Guilty. Usually, the Defendant enters a Plea of Not Guilty; either the way, the matter will probably be continued a month out for a new court date.
If you are represented by an attorney, then they will be able to file a document with the court in which you say that your attorney has explained to you the nature of the charges filed against you and the possible range of punishment. Additionally, this document will waive your formal arraignment and enter a Plea of Not Guilty. This is useful in that it will speed up your court appearance and it will allow you to avoid having to stand in front of the judge before everyone as he reads out loud the charges against you.
The Arrest, Bond and Arraignment portions of your case are rather straight forward but often a person who is not represented by counsel will make a wrong move that winds up costing them later in their case which could have possible negative consequences later in life.
It is important to know that when you find yourself named as a Defendant in a felony case, you need to speak with an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. Call me right away and I will make sure you understand everything about your case each step along the way. You don't have to do this by yourself.
*The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.