Understanding the Criminal Law Process in Idaho

Facing criminal charges can seem like a nightmare, especially if you don't know what to expect from the process. This article outlines the process for those who have been charged with criminal offenses in Idaho.


The first step in most criminal proceedings is the arrest. An officer must have a warrant, have witnessed a crime, or have probable cause that you committed a crime to arrest you. The officer must read you your Miranda rights, including your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present.

Bail and Release

Depending on the severity of your crime and whether you are deemed reliable to show up for court, you may be released from jail either on your own recognizance or after posting bail. The amount of bail varies by the offense. Bond is set at the arraignment phase, which happens earlier in the process for those facing misdemeanor charges than it does for those charged with felonies.

Your First Court Appearance

Your first court appearance will take place in a magistrate court, where you will be briefed on the charges filed against you and on the next steps in your case. For felonies, this is not the same as the arraignment, when you enter your plea. But in misdemeanor cases, the two are combined.

Should You Plea Bargain?

The vast majority of criminal cases in the United States are resolved through plea agreements, in which a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lighter sentence. Your attorney can help decide if a plea deal makes sense in your case.

The Preliminary Trial

Preliminary trials are used only for felony cases. They are held before a magistrate judge. This hearing determines whether there is enough admissible evidence for the case to go forward. If the prosecution fails to prove sufficient evidence of the crime charged, the charges may be dropped or reduced. The next step in a felony case is the arraignment, where the defendant enters an official plea and bond is set.

Your Trial

In Idaho, misdemeanor crimes are tried in a magistrate court and felonies are tried before a jury in a district court. If you are found not guilty, any bond posted will be refunded, less fees. If you are found guilty, the next step is a presentencing investigation. The judge will decide the appropriate sentence based on a report compiled during this investigation.

An Idaho Criminal Lawyer Can Help

If you are a defendant in a criminal case, it is important to understand how the criminal process works in your state. With the help of a criminal lawyer, you can put your best case forward as you navigate each step from arrest to trial.

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