I get so many emails asking me “What happens next?” So I am going to explain it in layman’s terms for those of us who aren’t lawyers. I am breaking it up into parts to make it easier to understand.
I also want to be specific as I can so that if you are using a Public Defender (who can have up to 200 other clients) you will have a better understanding of how things are supposed to be proceeding.
Generally what happens first is there is some kind of police contact, or another agency like Animal Control, Code Enforcement, CPS, Clinic, School or daycare.
If you are arrested: EXERCISE YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS & KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, do not sign anything & call an attorney
If they show up with a warrant EXERCISE YOUR MIRANDA RIGHTS & KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, do not sign anything & call an attorney.
When they say on TV: Anything you say can & will be used against you in a court of law they mean it!!! It is human nature to try to defend yourself, even verbally but they have already made up their minds about your guilt, all you are doing is adding fuel to their fire. They wouldn’t be arresting you or taking your property if they thought you were innocent.
In order to get the warrant they had to make up their mind you were guilty & then go convince a judge to sign the warrant in the first place, or they wouldn’t have a warrant. So the assumption is you are guilty.
If you believe the drivel that “You are innocent until proven guilty” you are sadly deeply mistaken, in order for you to even be in court you have to be presumed to be guilty, it is entirely up to you to prove you are innocent.
There is a formal investigation, then the information is sent to the prosecutors office. At that point the prosecutor reviews the info to see if they think they have a “case” & they file charges or don’t. When they do you will be notified of charges pending against you, usually by mail.
That notice will tell you when & where to appear for an Arraignment. At the Arraignment is when you are supposed to be able to see the probable cause papers that explains why they have a case at all, & it your chance to hear the charges & make a plea.
You’re now known as the “Defendant” & the city, state or county is now the “Plaintiff” which makes no logical sense at all your are the accused, & they are the accuser, in order for them to be a “plaintiff” they must have some type of “injury” you can not “injure” a corporation.
It should be noted that most times they don’t present a probable cause affidavit because they know you are a public citizen & most likely won’t know what your rights are. If you don’t see these papers you are making a plea without all of the information you should have. If you have the time you need to tell them to reschedule the hearing at a time when they have all of their facts together.
At this time they will ask you to plead Guilty or Not Guilty, but there are other ways to plead, one is No Contest, but the fourth is very interesting. It is called a peremptory plea, which I suggest you exercise if you are going to contest the charges, & if they don’t have the Affidavit of Probable Cause. A peremptory plea simply means that you acknowledged that they are indeed trying to charge you with a crime but you do not believe they have cause or jurisdiction to bring these charges against you.
Either Judges don’t know what this is or they try to act ignorant of the law & they will try to force you to plead Guilty or Not Guilty, sometimes they will try to enter the plea for you.
The last plea (that I know of) is the Alford Plea, which means that you are not wanting to plead guilty but they may have enough evidence against you to get a conviction & you are too afraid or financially unable to fight them.
At your Arraignment you will also be able to request a Public Defender, or have one assigned to you, or you will be able to get an Attorney if you can afford it. Do not sign anything, without FIRST talking to an attorney & this is why I suggest you not even plea until you have counsel standing by your side. In other words when you get that original notice call an attorney or call the public defenders office IMMEDIATELY.
Do not try to plead your case, or explain anything to the Judge if you are unrepresented, the prosecutor is there & they will use EVERYTHING you say against you. All hearings are recorded which gives the prosecutor the time to listen to what you said to build a case against you, & when you are upset you are liable to say something that just doesn’t sound right, or may just screw you.
At this time if you plead not guilty you can ask for a trial by Judge or a Trial by Jury, I ALWAYS suggest a trial by Jury for many reasons: You have 6 to 12 people who have to listen to your side of things who have to agree that you are guilty, there are inherently more chances for the prosecutor to screw things up, or even a juror, & it helps preserve more issues for appeal if you need it.
Sometimes when you request a trial they will ask you to sign away your right to a Speedy Trial, DO NOT DO IT. If you are unrepresented simply decline to sign anything until you can talk to an attorney, do not agree verbally to anything either.
The Judge has to ask you if you understand your rights, NEVER say yes, “Your Rights” are legal terms & terminology which you have not been to school for 7 yrs to understand, if they get frustrated with you tell them you are not an attorney, & you would like an attorney to explain it to you that is serving in your best interest.
Now there are some things you need to understand. The Judge, The Prosecutor, & yes… Your own Attorney are all member of the Bar Association & all officers of the court. Generally when you are paying the attorney they are working in your best interest, but with a Public defender they have as I said before up to 200 clients, are usually fresh out of law school & are trying to keep up, play grab ass, pay off their student loans & get through their first few years without getting in trouble with the bar.
Just because the Public Defender tells you something you don’t want to hear, or doesn’t agree with your position as to how to proceed doesn’t mean they are being lazy, sometimes it does, but most of the time (99%) they have a working knowledge of the law, & of the Judge & the prosecutor that you will be facing.
What I mean by a “working knowledge of the law” is that you have to be able to understand it & then translate it out, what you & I think is a given can have 4 to 10 different meanings in law. As much as I have learned & as much as I think I know I am still mystified when I figure out that something I held to be the Gospel truth is actually 14 other things & can be interpreted in 14 ways, or that it may not even have any bearing on my case, even though it speaks specifically about my case.
As an example: Look at my attorney at the beginning of this case, she knew very little, had NO trial legs, & instead of simply just answering my questions she lashed out at me about those questions. (Which the Washington State Bar recommends that you ask your new attorney) I have watched her over the past 16 months & Holy Frijoles!!! She is kicking butt & taking names now, she not afraid of her own shadow & she goes toe to toe with the idiot Judge. I wasn’t very impressed with her 16 months ago at all but now I entertain myself watching her in court, kind of interesting to see her blossom. Once she learns to not take ANYTHING personally then she is going to be a force to be reckoned with, the beauty of it is, the judge used to talk to her like she was a retard now she just snaps back at him, hopefully her firm will have enough sense to keep a hold of her, so she can continue to give those putzes a run for their money.