People facing the prospect of arrests in Nebraska are bound to have scores of questions about the process used to handle adults who are being accused of committing legal infractions. Although criminal processing follows a standard chronology across the country, there can be certain differences in how specific steps of the process are tackled from one state to another.
Can the police arrest anybody they want?
No, the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States offers protection against unlawful arrests. However, state and federal laws are also designed to accommodate arrests made with and without outstanding warrants depending on the specific scenario of a case. An arrest warrant will have to be sought in misdemeanors where a police officer did not witness the criminal incident.
However, for felonious crimes, arrests can be made without active warrants as long as the police can show that they had probable cause to suspect the detainee. When an arrest warrant is needed, it is the magistrate who sanctions it while the police just act as the petitioners in the process. Once again, the sheriff’s office will have to show that the evidence they have against a suspect is enough for the establishment of probable cause.
Do I have any rights once I am detained?
After being taken into custody, the arrestee will have to go through the booking process which will be conducted at the local police precinct. Regardless of how heinous the crime that the detainee is being accused of, Miranda Rights will still apply and these will be read out to the person while he is being arrested.
The booking may or may not be followed by questioning; in either case, you are allowed one phone call and you can ask that your attorney be present while you are being questioned. Furthermore, the police will have to take you to court for a bail hearing within 48 hours of being detained.
What happens the first time I go to court?
Depending on the crime that a person is being accused of; an arraignment may or may not be held with the bail hearing. At your first appearance, the charges will be explained to you and you will have to enter your plea; which can be guilty, not guilty or no contest. Although all detainees have the right to seek bail, whether bonded release is granted or not will depend on the seriousness of the crime, the past arrest records of the accused and the risk that he poses to the community and the victim.
Is trial my only option?
No, after a second round of probable cause determination when it is very clear that there is enough evidence to hold you culpable in the criminal matter, the prosecution and the defense may work on a deal. If this goes as planned, you will be given the option of lesser charges and sentence in return for pleading guilty. If you accept, the case will not go to trial but directly to sentencing.
What if I do elect to go to trial?
You will need an attorney to fight in your defense although it is possible to plead your own case. If you cannot afford legal representation, in some cases, a court appointed attorney will handle your matter. During the trial, the jury or the judge decides on the verdict (usually felonies are jury trials unless the defense waives this right). After both sides have had a go, the verdict of guilty or not guilty will be delivered. If the jury is involved, the decision has to be unanimous. The sentence will be delivered by the judge in subsequent court sessions.