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Criminal Cases

What happens if someone is

charged with a Felony

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The following is not legal advice but is for information only. Legal advice is when an attorney applies the law to a person's individual circumstances and advises them on their legal options or potential exposure to legal harm, which a web page clearly does not.

 

Initially a person charged will be given a date and time to appear in court or will either be arrested and be denied bail (sometimes a bail bondsman cannot grant any bail because of the type of offense) or the person will be unable to pay an amount set before appearing in any court. If the latter is the case, the person charged will be appearing from the jail and there will be a hearing within 48 hours of arrest. This is both a constitutional right and set out in statute.

If the person is appearing because they have been given notice to appear, the first hearing will be the same. It is called an initial appearance and the charged person will not plead that day. At that point it is highly likely that the on-call attorney will make a bail argument or let the client's attorney (either court-appointed or retained) make one on their behalf at a later date. There will be no plea because all felonies have to go before a grand jury (which is something that can be waived) under Maine's constitution (there is no federal constitutional right to have a case decided by a grand jury that applies to state courts). The grand jury determines whether probable cause (the same standard as an arrest) exists for the charge to become an indictment. This process is closed to the public, led by the prosecutor, and is often a perfunctory exercise. However, very occasionally, a grand jury will refuse to indict and the case is dismissed.

 

At the point after a indictment is returned, at another hearing the accused person will be formally 'arraigned.' Only then will they enter a plea, normally a not guilty to allow a defense attorney to get discovery, examine facts to law, and either decide with the client whether it should go to trail or end the matter with a negotiated plea deal.

Part of the process down the road - often months later - a hearing called a dispositional conference is held. These are informal conversations between the judge and both the prosecutor and defense attorney about how to resolve a case.

If there is no resolution, hearings will be set on any motions then filed. It could be put on a docket list too be set for trial, or there could be another hearing to see if a resolution can be reached. These are often given grand-sounding titles like a status conference. The pressure to plead guilty is immense.

 

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