A New Orleans Defense Attorney Explains How the Criminal Process Works in Louisiana

The criminal process in Louisiana is composed of five main phases: arrest, arraignment, motion hearings, trial, and sentencing. Below is an overview of each step. For more detailed information, please contact a New Orleans defense attorney.

Your Case Begins With the Arrest

All criminal cases begin with either an arrest or a summons. An officer may arrest a suspect under two circumstances: (1) a judge has issued a warrant for the suspect’s arrest, or (2) the arresting officer has probable cause to believe the suspect has committed a crime. What constitutes “probable cause” in any given case is somewhat of a moving target, but generally requires more than a mere hunch; rather, the officer must have a factual basis for making the arrest. Probable cause to make a drug arrest could arise, for example, when an officer pulls over a driver for speeding and sees a bag of cocaine sitting on the passenger’s seat.

Arraignments in Louisiana

An arraignment is a court proceeding wherein the court reads the formal charge to the defendant, informs her of her legal rights, and asks her to enter a plea. The defendant may then plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Should the defendant wish to plead guilty, the judge will address her in open court to determine that she understands the nature of the charge, that she has a right to representation by an attorney, that she has the right to plead not guilty and to be tried by a jury, and that she waives her right to trial by jury by pleading guilty.

Our New Orleans Defense Attorney Will Handle All Motion Hearings

Before the trial begins, both sides (the prosecution and defense) will argue motions that are relevant to the case, many of which will concern the evidence that each party plans to use at trial. Some of the most common pre-trial motions at these types of hearings include:

  • Motions for discovery
  • Motions to compel
  • Motions to suppress
  • Motions to change venue
  • Motions to dismiss
  • Motions for preliminary hearing
  • Motions for bond reduction

The outcomes of these motion hearings will, in large part, determine how the trial will proceed.

Trials in New Orleans

The trial is the most public step of the criminal justice process, even though it accounts for only a small portion of it. At trial, each side will present its case to a judge or jury by making statements, presenting evidence, and examining and cross-examining witnesses. To obtain a conviction, the prosecution must show that the defendant is guilty of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt — the highest burden of proof in the American legal system.

Reasonable doubt exists when a juror cannot say with moral certainty that the defendant is guilty. Thus, the defense will try to establish reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds by attacking the credibility of the prosecution’s case.

The Sentencing Phase

If the defendant is found not guilty at trial, the process ends there. But if the defendant is found guilty, the judge will set a sentencing hearing where he or she will determine the nature and extent of the defendant’s sentence.

Contact a New Orleans Defense Attorney

You don’t have to face the criminal justice process alone. An experienced criminal defense attorney can represent you at every step and ensure that your rights are protected. For more information, please contact a New Orleans defense attorney at Bloom Legal by using our online form or calling us at 504-599-9997.

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