In my view, the criminal justice process starts before you know it; it’s sometimes happening behind the scenes, and that’s what we attorneys look at. Some of our clients don’t realize that the criminal justice process is working against them before they are arrested. It includes the time when there is an allegation made against them. It includes times when there’s evidence that someone says is proof that someone did something. That whole criminal justice process, that investigation and analysis of evidence—all of that is happening before someone is even arrested.
You need an attorney to help figure these things out, because you don’t know it as a defendant. For example, you don’t realize that somebody placed a call two hours ago saying that they saw you commit something. The criminal justice process is sometimes happening without your understanding or your awareness.
The criminal justice process also includes the things with which you are familiar. It includes the stuff you see on TV: the arrest, taking you into custody, bringing you in front of a judge, your charges, hearings before a court, repeated attendance in court for issues, and then, ultimately, either a plea, dismissal, or trial. It is a long process and it can sometimes take weeks, it can sometimes take months, and, in some unfortunate situations, it can take years. The length of time can be pretty daunting, and at the very beginning of a case, you simply cannot know what it is going to look like.
Really, the criminal justice process is all the stuff that can happen to you from the beginning of the case (whether or not you know when the beginning is) until you finally get out of the case one way or the other, and it includes everything: trial hearing, multiple hearings, discovery, review of discovery, investigation—it is much more than you may realize.