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November 28, 2021

How Courts Work

Steps in a Trial

Arrest Procedures

When an officer arrests someone, the accused is taken into custody. Similarly, when a grand jury returns an indictment or a prosecutor files an information, a judge or magistrate issues a warrant for the arrest of the person charged if not already under arrest, and the person is taken into custody. (Sometimes, for less serious offenses, defendants are issued citations to appear rather than being arrested.)

  • When people are taken into custody, before they are questioned, they must be informed that anything they say may be held against them in a court of law, and that they have the right to remain silent,
  • consult with a lawyer before and during questioning, and
  • have a lawyer appointed to represent them if they cannot afford one.

They are also told that they can exercise these rights at any time. In some states, there may be variation in this statement for juveniles. For example, juveniles might be warned that if the juvenile court waives jurisdiction over them, then the statements they make can be used against them in a court proceeding in which they will be tried as an adult.

These are often referred to as the Miranda rights because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1966 in Miranda v. Arizona that when law enforcement officers question people taken into custody, the evidence garnered from their interview cannot be used against them unless they have been informed of their constitutional rights to counsel and to remain silent.

If a person has been arrested without a warrant, law enforcement officials may hold him or her for a period of time necessary to handle certain administrative tasks (fingerprinting, checking to see if the person is the subject of any outstanding warrants, etc.) This time may vary depending on the facts of the particular case, but it s generally quite brief, usually no more than 48 hours. They may not hold the person beyond that time without an initial or first appearance or arraignment before a judge or magistrate (a public official vested with certain judicial powers in the federal system and the systems of some states).

>>Diagram of How a Case Moves Through the Courts
>>Civil and Criminal Cases
>>Settling Cases
>>Pre-trial Procedures in Civil Cases
>>Jurisdiction and Venue
>>Pre-Trial Conferences
>>Pre-trial Procedures in Criminal Cases
>>Bringing the Charge
>>Arrest Procedures
>>Pre-Trial Court Appearances in Criminal Cases
>>Plea Bargaining
>>Civil and Criminal Trials
>>Officers of the Court
>>The Jury Pool
>>Selecting the Jury
>>Opening Statements
>>Direct Examination
>>Motion for Directed Verdict/Dismissal
>>Presentation of Evidence by the Defense
>>Final Motions
>>Closing Arguments
>>Instructions to the Jury
>>Jury Deliberations
>>Motions after Verdict

How Courts Work Home | Courts and Legal Procedure | *Steps in a Trial*
The Human Side of Being a Judge | Mediation