I Was Charged With A Felony In Kentucky, What Will Happen Next?
In Kentucky, along with everywhere else in Greater Cincinnati, felony charges are very serious and can be very scary for the person accused. Depending on the type of charge, you could be facing long periods of time in prison. Whether it be the attorneys at the Law Offices of Christopher Jackson, another firm or a public defender, we always recommend having an experienced criminal attorney to help you through this process.
The arraignment is always the first step in the felony process. The arraignment is a court appearance where you will go in front of a district court (misdemeanor court) judge and be informed of the charges against you. At the arraignment, you can only enter a not guilty plea in Kentucky (the No Contest plea does not exist in Kentucky). This is also the opportunity that your criminal defense attorney can address the conditions of your bond with the judge. If you or your loved one is incarcerated, the arraignment is typically the best opportunity to get their bond lowered so that they can get out of jail quickly.
If you are charged with a felony in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, your second court date will be what is called a preliminary hearing. This is a court appearance in front of the judge where an attorney from the Commonwealth Attorney's Office (the prosecutor in Kentucky) has to call witnesses to prove that there was "probable cause" to arrest you and charge you with a felony. Probable cause is defined as "a reasonable ground to suspect that a person has committed or is committing a crime". This is much easier to prove than "beyond a reasonable doubt" which is what is necessary to find someone guilty. If the judge finds that there was probable cause to arrest, then you will be bound over to the grand jury.
If you are charged with a felony in Kentucky and the judge determines there was probable cause at your preliminary hearing, your case will be passed to the grand jury. The grand jury is a group of citizens (not attorneys) who hear the evidence against you from the prosecutor in a closed, private meeting. They then decide to indict you with a felony, return your case as a misdemeanor, or get rid of your case all together (which is known as returning a "No True Bill"). Unfortunately, the grand jury almost always indicts people with felonies if that is what the prosecutor is asking for.
If you are indicted, your case will be moved to Circuit Court, which is the case that handles felony cases in Kentucky. This first court appearance in front of your felony judge will be very similar to the Initial Appearance you had in District Court. You will be informed of your charges and enter either a guilty or not guilty plea. You can also address bond again at this hearing.
The next court date that you will have is a pre-trial. These hearings are used to make sure that the prosecutor has given you all of the discovery that they have. The discovery is all of the evidence that the prosecutor or the police officers have against you. This could be the written police reports, videos, DNA evidence, ballistic evidence (if a gun was involved), and any witness testimony they have, just to name a few.
You are entitled to see all of the evidence that the Commonwealth plans to use against you in trial. It is important to carefully review this evidence to see if there is a way for you to beat the case against you.
Plea or Trial
Your next step will be the biggest decision you make in your case (besides deciding which criminal defense attorney will represent you). You will have to decide if you want to take a plea bargain or if you want to go to trial.
If you decide to take a plea bargain, you will appear in court after being made an offer by the prosecutor. This offer will include the amount of jail time you will serve (if any), the length of probation you will serve (if any) and the amount of a fine you will have to pay (if any). You will have to go in front of the judge and admit what you did and he will accept your plea agreement. Plea bargains are very popular because the penalties on a plea bargain are typically much less than the potential penalties you would face at trial.
If you reject a plea bargain, your next step will be going to trial. In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, all felony trials are jury trials. You and your criminal defense attorney along with the prosecutor will lay out the case in front of 12 citizens of the community. You can testify and call other people to testify on your behalf. All of the discovery will be shown to the jury and the prosecutor will also probably have the police officer who arrested you testify. After all the evidence is shown, the jury deliberates and determines if you are guilty or not guilty.
If you enter a plea bargain or are found guilty at trial, your final court appearance will be your sentencing hearing. Prior to this hearing, you will meet with a probation officer who completes a Presentence Investigation Report. This is a document that goes over much of your life, including your education, health, drug use, family, employment history, and prior convictions. The judge reads this and then the prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney make arguments for what kind and length of sentence you should receive. After arguments are over, the judge makes his decision and gives you your punishment.
The felony process is very important and can move very quickly for someone who isn't familiar with it. Choosing a proven, experienced criminal defense lawyer or law firm is important to increase your chances of success. The stakes are simply too high not to go with a firm with proven results. If you or a loved one is charged with a felony in Kentucky and need a criminal defense attorney, call us, the Law Offices of Christopher Jackson. We can help and the first call is always a FREE CONSULTATION.