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Offered by Brighton Attorney Gregory R. McMahon

Criminal cases often begin with an arrest or the issuance of a Uniform Summons and Complaint, which is an order to appear in court on a certain date and time. This Uniform Summons and Complaint will state the charges against you. Now is the time to consider if you should hire counsel so that you will be represented throughout the criminal process.

In most courts, the first appearance is what is known as an arraignment. The arraignment is usually the first time you appear in front of the Judge who will explain the charges against you and the possible penalties.

The next phase is known as a pre-trial conference. This is usually the first opportunity your attorney has to meet with the district attorney’s office to discuss possible resolutions to your case without going to trial. The majority of criminal cases are resolved by what is known as a plea bargain in which your attorney and the district attorney work out a resolution that is acceptable to both the accused and district attorney. This can include a wide variety of possibilities such as pleading guilty to a reduced charge, accepting probation instead of a jail sentence, or a deferred judgement and sentence (DJS), which is a guilty plea. However, if you abide by all the terms of your DJS, there will be no criminal conviction on your record upon successful completion of the DJS. It is important to note that the Judge always has the final say on whether or not to accept a plea bargain.

If the case cannot be resolved at the pre-trial conference, the next step usually is a disposition hearing. The disposition hearing is where you decide if you want to take a plea off er or enter a plea of not guilty and set your case for trial.

The information in this column is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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