There are many legal procedures throughout the criminal process. Usually, the steps are followed in the same way in each state. This guide explains the basic criminal process in Connecticut.
In Connecticut, you're arrested when a police officer believes an offense has been or is in the process of being committed. At that time, you will be taken into custody.
The officer must have probable cause, saw the crime in progress or have an arrest warrant. Most arrests involve crimes outside the home and without a warrant ever being issued.
Your Miranda Rights
You must be told you have the right: to remain silent (what you say can be used against you in court), to an attorney, to have the attorney present during questioning, or have an appointed attorney. If speaking, you can stop anytime. If arrested without Miranda rights, anything you said is inadmissible as evidence at trial.
Booking is information taken at jail, including fingerprinting and mug shots. Personal items are confiscated, a full body search is conducted, and then you are placed in a holding cell.
Posting Bail for your Release
The procedures for bail and release in Connecticut depend on the type and severity of charges. These are separate from the arraignment phase.
In Connecticut, you can get out of jail quickly by paying standard bail for that crime or wait for the judge.
If arrested Friday, it will be Monday before you see the judge. Like weekends, holidays add to time spent in jail.
You may also be released on your own recognizance. A warrant for your arrest will be issued for failure to appear back in court.
Arraignment and Entering a Pleaâ€¨â€¨
You can expect an arraignment within a week if released on bond or 48 hours, longer due to weekends or holidays.
The criminal complaint, or charges against you, is read. You reply with a plea, sometimes in a second arraignment. You can plead guilty, not guilty, no contest or the Alford plea. If you don't answer the plea, it's written as not guilty.
Most criminal cases are resolved through plea-bargaining or a mutually satisfactory agreement, subject to court approval.
Preliminary Hearing vs. Grand Juryâ€¨â€¨
States have different procedures for determining if a matter can go to trial, either via preliminary hearing or a grand jury. Connecticut uses a preliminary hearing to determine if evidence is sufficient.
In Connecticut, there are no preliminary trials when a plea has been reached or in petty cases. In some states, they are just for felonies. â€¨â€¨
Trial and Sentencingâ€¨â€¨
The defense has the right to decide whether a case will be tried with judge or jury. In Connecticut, most criminal trials have jury trial rights.
Trials start with jury selection, evidence, opening statements, direct and cross-examination and redirection the witness. The prosecution rests after finishing its case. The defense may move for a motion to dismiss, which the judge usually denies. Defense follows suit. Defense rests. Prosecution can refute. Closing arguments follow, and prosecution rebuts. The jury is instructed and deliberates. If the jury returns a guilty verdict, the defense moves to acquit/new trial. Judge usually denies and passes sentence then or later.
If you're found guilty, the judge has sentencing discretion using guidelines, mitigating or aggravating factors and plea-agreement provisions.
A Criminal Lawyer Is Invaluable
No two criminal cases are alike, and criminal law procedures vary from state to state. Anyone standing accused of a crime in Connecticut should retain a criminal defense attorney.