Missouri residents who are arrested and charged with a crime might be under the impression that a case will proceed the way it’s often portrayed on television. However, TV plots tend to be either sensationalized or overly simplified. Understanding the real procedures when being charged with a crime can be important to the criminal defense.

There are certain steps that law enforcement and prosecutors will take after an alleged offender is placed under arrest. The arresting officer fills out a summary of the case facts in an arrest report. The report is then sent to the prosecutor who can do the following: file the complaint; have a grand jury decide if there should be criminal charges; or not move forward.

There are frequently extenuating circumstances that will factor in with whether the prosecutor will pursue a case. For example, the prosecutor might have political goals in mind. The office will have certain policies to pursue specific types of crimes while treating others as less serious. The prosecutor will have a perspective as to what crimes should be aggressively pursued, dictating the direction of the case.

If the case is brought to the grand jury, the prosecutor will present the case. Witnesses can be heard as part of the evidence. If the jury indicts, there will be a ‘true bill.” It will be a ‘no bill” should the jury choose not to indict. Even with a no bill, the prosecutor can still file with a different grand jury. There can be a preliminary hearing if it is a felony charge. The case could go directly to the preliminary hearing, during which the prosecutor must show the judge that there is sufficient evidence for a trial. This is just part of a criminal case. Since the process can get rather complex, it’s important that a defendant retain an experienced criminal defense attorney who can provide guidance.