Few experiences are as stressful and unsettling as being charged with a criminal offense. If you or someone you care about is facing criminal charges, you're likely to have questions about what to expect from the time of the arrest through the trial. Although the criminal process is similar in most states, there are some state-specific differences. Here are some things you should keep in mind about the criminal process in Arkansas.
Officers cannot arrest you unless they have a warrant, witness you in the act of committing a crime, or have reasonable cause to suspect that you committed a crime. The arresting officer must identify himself or herself as an officer of the law, inform you that you are being placed under arrest, and explain why. You must also be read the Miranda warning, which informs you of your right to remain silent. If you choose to remain silent, you cannot be interrogated
Bail and Release Procedures
One of the first questions you'll likely have after your arrest is how soon you can get out of jail. The answer depends on the severity of the charges and whether the court deems that you can be trusted to show up for necessary appearances. Some individuals may be released on their own recognizance. Others must post bail -- a certain amount of money you must put down to secure your release.
Entering a Plea
In Arkansas, you can plead guilty, not guilty, or -- with the court’s consent -- nolo contendere. Nolo contendere means “no contest.” You must also have the consent of the prosecution to make this plea. Nolo contendere pleas are sometimes part of plea bargains.
Depending on your situation, it may make sense to work out a plea deal with the prosecution, such as pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved this way. Your attorney can help you decide if a plea bargain is a good idea in your case.
Provided that you don't enter a guilty plea, your case will be reviewed at a pretrial hearing called an omnibus hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to determine the admissibility of evidence and give an opportunity for both sides to make pretrial motions. You have an opportunity to change your plea at this hearing as well.
Trial and Sentencing
The Constitution guarantees you the right to a speedy trial by jury, but these cases can actually take quite some time, especially if they're high-profile. In the event of a guilty verdict, formal sentencing occurs within 30 days of the verdict.
An Arkansas Criminal Lawyer Can Help
Facing criminal charges can seem like a nightmare. Knowing what to expect from the criminal process in your state can help. An Arkansas criminal lawyer can guide you through each step and help you put your best case forward.