5 Steps in the Criminal Case Process: Understanding the Legal Journey

Understanding the Legal Journey

The legal system is not always the most straightforward matter for those who find themselves in the middle of a criminal case. It can feel baffling and overwhelming, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the process. In this article, we’ll outline the five steps involved in a criminal case to help you gain a better understanding of the legal journey.

Investigation and Arrest

The first step in the criminal case process is the investigation phase. Law enforcement officers gather evidence and determine whether an arrest can be made. If they find sufficient evidence to demonstrate probable cause, an arrest is made. A criminal lawyer in Minneapolis would be able to provide more information about this step, as it can vary depending on the type of crime.

Preliminary Hearing and Arraignment

After an arrest, the defendant is taken to court, where they are informed of the charges and asked to enter a plea. This is known as the arraignment. At this point, the court will also decide whether the defendant will be granted bail or required to remain in custody. Depending on the jurisdiction and nature of the charges, a preliminary hearing may also be held. This hearing is used to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with the case. If there isn’t, the charges may be dropped, or the matter may be referred back to law enforcement for further investigation.

Discovery and Pre-Trial Motions

During the discovery phase, both the prosecution and the defense exchange information and evidence related to the case. This helps both parties build their case and attempt to uncover any weaknesses in the opposing party’s argument. In this stage, pre-trial motions may be filed, such as requests to exclude particular evidence or change the trial venue.


If a plea agreement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial. The prosecution holds the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charges. Both parties will present their arguments, call witnesses, and submit evidence. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, they move on to the sentencing phase.

Sentencing and Appeals

At the sentencing hearing, the judge will determine the appropriate penalty for the defendant based on the charges, the evidence, and any relevant sentencing guidelines. Possible sentences include imprisonment, fines, community service, and probation. If the defendant believes an error was made during the trial, they have the right to appeal the conviction or sentence.

Wrapping Up

The criminal case process can be complex and challenging to navigate, but understanding the five steps involved can provide clarity and alleviate some uncertainty. Considering the potential consequences, it is crucial to secure the best possible legal representation when facing criminal charges. A criminal lawyer can guide you through each step of the process, helping ensure the most favorable outcome for your specific case.