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Bay Area Criminal Defense Blog

Guide to the Criminal Justice System and the various stages of a case.

Posted by Lynn Gorelick | May 21, 2013 | 0 Comments

Criminal Justice System

After an arrest occurs, a chain of legal events begins, serving the purpose of methodically determining whether a criminal suspect should be considered guilty and what his or her sentence will be. Here are the main steps in the criminal justice process:

Bail Hearing

If the defendant is not thought to pose a danger to society, he or she may have the option to be released to await trial, rather than having to spend the time in jail. During a bail hearing, a judge considers factors such as the nature of the crime committed as well as the defendant's criminal record, lifestyle, and connections to the community. A person who appears likely to attend the trial may be allowed to return home in exchange for a certain amount of money that is returned once court proceedings are finished.


At the arraignment, the charges brought against the defendant are officially announced to him or her. In response, the defendant submits a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A criminal defense lawyer can help determine whether a plea bargain for a less-severe sentence is a viable option.

Preliminary Hearing

Unless the defendant pleads guilty, the case will likely go to trial. If you are charged with a felony, before the trial occurs, the judge must ensure that there is sufficient cause to believe that a felony has been committed. This is done during the preliminary hearing through a presentation of the evidence with the arresting officers and other witnesses testifying

Trial and Sentencing

If the case is deemed worthy of trial, both the prosecution and the defense will present their arguments and evidence in court. The judge runs the proceedings, while the jury decides whether the defendant should be found guilty. If the jury comes back with a not guilty verdict, the case is over.  If there is a “guilty” verdict, the judge will determine exactly what the sentence will entail.

If you have further questions about the criminal justice system or would like to consult a DUI/DWI attorney   regarding your case, call Gorelick Law Offices at (510) 785-1444 . We offer complimentary consultations to help those accused of crimes more easily navigate the legal process.

Disclaimer: The materials available at this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use and access to this website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney

About the Author

Lynn Gorelick

Lynn Gorelick has been an attorney for over 38 years. She is the Attorney Lynn Gorelick is the Immediate Past President of the California DUI Lawyers Association and a Faculty and Sustaining member of the National College of DUI Defense. Lynn is a Specialist Member of the California DUI Lawyers Association and lectures frequently to other attorneys regarding DUI and DMV issues.


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