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Published: 2008-03-26

So You've Been Charged With a Felony:What Happens Now?



Being charged with the commission of a felony offense is a frightening experience. The fear of the ultimate outcome as well as the fear of the unknown can be debilitating. Therefore, it is very important for you to have a basic understanding of the procedure that will be used in the prosecution of your case.

After a felony charge is filed, there will first be an arraignment where four things usually happen:

  1. The charge will be read to you,

  2. The Court will make certain that you have an attorney or are getting one,

  3. The Court will consider setting a bond by which you can secure your freedom pending trial, and

  4. The Court will set a date for a preliminary hearing.
The next step will be the preliminary hearing which is a probable cause hearing where the burden is on the State to show that two things probably occurred as follows:

  1. That a felony probably occurred, and

  2. That you probably committed it.
If the State is successful, you will be bound over to the Circuit Court for further arraignment within 40 days. The vast majority of cases get bound over to Circuit Court because of the minimal requirements that must be proven by the State.

Upon arraignment in Circuit Court, the following five things will usually happen:

  1. The charge will be read to you,

  2. You will enter a plea of not guilty,

  3. The Court will make certain that you have an attorney or are getting one,

  4. The Court will consider setting a bond by which you can secure your freedom pending trial, and

  5. The Court will set a date for trial.
The trial will be before a judge or a jury and the State must prove each and every element of the crime "BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT."

If charged with a felony offense, immediately contact an attorney that practices in the area of criminal defense.

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*Mr. Parker is the former prosecuting attorney of Dent County, Missouri and currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Criminal Law Committee in the Missouri House of Representatives. He is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.