What to expect in a Madison County Alabama Circuit Court case.
There are certain procedures that are followed in Circuit Court criminal cases.
You should obtain a lawyer as soon as possible. If you can afford to do so, you should retain the services of a competent criminal defense lawyer.
If you do not have an attorney and you believe you are unable to afford one you should contact the Madison County court administrator's office and schedule an appointment to fill out an application for the appointment of counsel. That telephone number is (256). 532-3575. You should be aware that in most instances unless you are found not guilty, you will be required to reimburse the state of Alabama for whatever fees that lawyer charges the state in relation to your case.
Whether your lawyer is appointed or retained, they will be able to guide you through the legal proceedings and, hopefully, educate you about the process and get you the best possible resolution.
What happens at an arraignment?
An arraignment is where a person enters a plea to the charges against them. In Madison County a person may choose to enter any of the following pleas at arraignment:
Not guilty: in other words, the person is saying that they are not guilty of the charges against them.
Not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect- the person is saying that they suffer from some sort of mental disease or defect and that excuses what would otherwise be criminal conduct.
Not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in this plea a person is saying that either their behavior is to be excused because of a mental disease or defect, or that even if it is not, they are not guilty of the accusations against them.
Guilty- the person is admitting and accepting responsibility for their criminal actions.
What happens after arraignment?
If a person has pled guilty at arraignment, the next step would be sentencing. Some individuals request a presentence investigation which is a report prepared for the judge to help in providing an appropriate sentence. Some people waive a presentence investigation; this is either because they are comfortable being sentenced without it, or in the alternative, a plea agreement has been reached and the judge has agreed to accept and follow that agreement.
If a person has entered any plea other than one of guilty, then typically there are a number of pretrial motions filed by the lawyers involved in the case. There are a variety of motions that may be filed, including such things as motions to suppress evidence and other motions concerning pretrial issues.
Once all pretrial issues have been addressed a jury will be selected and the case will proceed to trial.
If the accused person has been found not guilty, that is the conclusion of the case. If the accused person has been found guilty, then the judge will sentence them either. After a presentence investigation or, if it is waived, without a presentence investigation.
What happens at trial?
If your case is a jury trial, you and your lawyer will proceed to select a jury. This process is called voir dire. You and your lawyer will be allowed to eliminate a certain number of potential jurors who you think are undesirable and the state will be able to do the same. Both your lawyer and the state's lawyer may also challenge certain potential jurors ability to serve for certain reasons.
Once the jury is selected and sworn in by the judge, the lawyers will give opening statements.
In a criminal case, since the state of Alabama has the burden of proof, they will almost always provide the first opening statements to the jury. Your lawyer will also have an opportunity to present his opening statements to the jury.
After the lawyers have presented their opening statements the trial will begin with the calling of witnesses. The first part of the case (and sometimes the only part of the case) is "the state's case." In all criminal cases, the prosecution has the burden of proving that someone has committed a crime and there is no burden of proof on the person who was accused of the crime; that means that an accused person may simply sit there and argue with the conclusion of the case that there was not sufficient evidence presented against. Normally the state will call a number of witnesses and the defendants lawyer will be allowed to cross-examine these witnesses.
Once the state is done presenting its evidence, the defense lawyer may have certain motions that he presents to the judge-the most typical of these is a motion for judgment of acquittal arguing that the state failed to provide sufficient evidence to allow the case to go forward and that their client is due to be acquitted of the charges.
Assuming the court denies the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal, it is now the defendant's turn to present evidence should they choose to do so. The defense may call whatever witnesses it believes to be appropriate and the prosecution will be permitted to cross-examine the defendant's witnesses. In a criminal trial. The person accused of the crime has an absolute right to refrain from testifying and the court will instruct the jury that they are to not hold that against the accused person in any way. If the accused person decides to testify in his case, he would be subject to cross-examination just as any other witness is subject to cross-examination.
If the accused is acquitted, that is the end of the matter.
What happens if I am convicted?
If the accused person has been found guilty, then the judge will sentence them within the legal range for the crime they have been convicted of.
After conviction, a person must decide whether or not to appeal their case. If they choose to do so they would provide the Circuit Court with "notice of appeal" and the case will be appealed beginning with an appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and, if appropriate, the case could be appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court.