Let’s start at the beginning: You, or a family member, are arrested and taken to jail…What happens next?? The first step in the criminal justice system is called video arraignment. It takes 48 to 72 hours to be arraigned. Through video technology you will be brought before a judge who will tell you what you are being charged with, what your bond amount is, possibly appoint the Public Defender, and give you your next court date. If you are without papers you will not receive a bond, unless you have hired a private attorney who specifically asks the judge to set a state bond. The next step depends on whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor is a less serious crime and carries a maximum sentence of one year in Tulsa County Jail. If you are without papers, you may still be allowed to stay in the country if the criminal misdemeanor case is handled properly. A felony is much more serious because it potentially carries multiple years of prison incarceration, as well as almost guaranteeing deportation for anyone without citizenship.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor, then your next court date will be approximately three weeks later and it is called a Status Conference (STC). This is when your attorney will discuss with an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) what they would offer you as a penalty if you were willing to plea guilty. If you accept the offer, and it does not include jail time, you will be released, or transferred to ICE if you are without papers. If you choose to fight the charges, then an Allen Hearing date will be set approximately four weeks into the future. This is the date by which the DA’s office must give your attorney all the evidence they have in their possession. If you are not guilty or the plea offer is not reasonable, it is necessary to set this date to force the ADA to take a closer look at the evidence. Sometimes a better plea offer is worked out prior to the Allen Hearing date. If the ADA provides all the evidence by this date, then a Trial Date will be set approximately six to eight weeks out.
If you are charged with a felony, then your next court date will be a Preliminary Hearing and will be approximately three weeks after arraignment. During this time your attorney will be given the opportunity to negotiate on your behalf for a plea arrangement. If an agreement is made between you and the ADA, then the Preliminary Hearing will not be necessary. So, what is a preliminary hearing? It is sort of a mini-trial where the DA’s office is given the opportunity to call witnesses and produce evidence, and they must show that more likely than not they can prove all of the elements of the crime, which you have been accused. In most cases, this is not a very difficult task, because although your attorney is able to cross-examine their witnesses, you and your attorney are not usually allowed to call witnesses of your own or mount a specific defense. If the ADA is unable to prove all of the elements, then the case will be dismissed. This happens very rarely, but it does happen. If they prove the elements, then you are bound-over for District Court. This is just a fancy term for a Status Conference to decide whether you are going to accept a plea agreement or go to trial. This will occur about one week after the Preliminary Hearing. If you decide to fight the charges all the way to trial, it will take approximately nine months.
There are three things to remember. (1) Nothing happens as quickly as you would like it to, especially if you or your loved one is in jail. Be patient! (2) You deserve to have answers. Find an attorney that will take the time to answer all of your questions. It is important that you make well-informed decisions. (3) Don’t let your attorney talk you into pleading guilty to the first offer. Hire an attorney who is not afraid to take your case to trial. Even if you just want to get it over with, an attorney who is willing to fight will almost always get you a better deal.