Legal Rights Afforded to the Accused
Criminal activities are handled differently depending on the nature of the crime. “The federal government defines a felony as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year” (Samaha, 2004). However, if an individual commits a felony and receives a jail term that is less than one year we refer to the offense as a misdemeanor. A felon refers to an individual who has gone against the law by committing a felony. “The following offenses are always treated as a felony: aggravated assault, grand theft, robbery, murder, rape, and vandalism on federal property”(Sheppard & Farnsworth, 2010). This paper seeks to provide an analysis of the legal rights that are always afforded to an accused person. The analysis will focus on the case of John Doe.
Stages of a Criminal Trial
John Doe committed a shoplifting offense which is classified as a felony. “Criminal procedure refers to the methods used to investigate and prosecute a crime and it also protects the rights of the defendant”(John, 2009). The following procedures can be used in handling John’s case.
“An arrest refers to a situation whereby a person is brought under the custody of police officers”(Samaha, 2004). An arrest can be made if a person is found in the process of committing an offence or if the police officers have information that somebody has done something that warrants an arrest. These principles explain why John Doe was arrested.
At this stage, information is collected from the suspect and it is used for the legal process. The information collected includes the details of the offense, the personal details of the suspect and his finger prints. After that a date is set when the suspect will be arraigned in court. “For misdemeanors, which are less serious than felonies, the defendant may be released with the posting of a cash bond and a promise to appear before a magistrate”(Sheppard & Farnsworth, 2010). Since John committed a felony it would be very difficult for him to get a bond because of the following reasons. First, he did not have money hence he could not settle the bill. Second, he was in the country without proper documents and his crime was also very serious. His relatives were also not within USA and they could not represent him. “The fact that he is not a US citizen further complicates the issue because he cannot access the legal rights enjoyed by the US citizens”(Samaha, 2004).
“An arraignment refers to the process in which the accused appears in court and enters a ‘not guilty’ or ‘guilty’ plea”(John, 2009). “If the accused pleads that he or she is not guilty, a trial date will be set”(John, 2009). John Doe will face this process in order for him to give his testimony about the crime. Another important process at this stage is setting the bail. The suspect can be allowed to go back to his residence after paying a bail, which is always informed of money. The amount paid for bail varies depending on the crime. “In some circumstances, the bail can be revoked and the suspect can remain locked in until the day of his trial”(Sheppard & Farnsworth, 2010). Since John Doe did not have money he could not get a bail. Hence, he had to remain in the police cells until his day of trial.
A preliminary trial always precedes the main trial. The judge who handles the preliminary trial has the capacity to decide whether a person should be tried or not(Levesque, 2006). In order for the case to proceed to the main trial, the prosecutors have to give the judge necessary information and evidence that will be used against the suspected criminal. If they fail to do so the case can be terminated and another process can be used to discipline the suspect. “For example, he or she can be put on probation for some time”(John, 2009).
At this level, the suspect is always scrutinized by the jury. “A trial is the government’s opportunity to argue its case, in the hope of obtaining a guilty verdict and a conviction of the defendant”(Samaha, 2004). If the suspect cannot provide enough evidence then he is automatically declared guilty and he has to be sentenced. The similarity between preliminary trial and a major trial is that they both aim at finding information related to the crime. “They also enable the accused to defend himself”(John, 2009). The only difference is that the main trial gives the final decision on the dispute.
The Sentencing Stage
The sentencing stage is very crucial. “After a person has been convicted of a crime whether, through a guilty plea, plea bargain, or a jury verdict, the appropriate legal punishment is determined at the sentencing phase”(Samaha, 2004). There are so many punishments that can be used to discipline a person who has been sentenced. For example, he can be imprisoned or he may be compelled to pay a fine. There are set guidelines that are usually referred to by the jury when they give charges. This enables them to give commensurate punishments to the convicts depending on the level of the offense. For example, they find out whether the accused had been found in a criminal activity before. Secondly, they can assess his or her social status. In addition to these, “they also consider the nature of the crime, the manner in which it was committed, and the impact on victims, i.e. whether injuries resulted”(Samaha, 2004). In some situations, an appeal can be given to the person found guilty. For example, if there is fresh evidence and also if it has been realized that some mistakes occurred during the trial. These considerations will be taken when sentencing John Doe for the felony.
Since John Doe is an illegal immigrant, he will be seriously penalized for the felony. It is therefore imperative for the immigrants to know the law and other legal procedures. In addition to this, immigrants should try as much as possible to remain obedient. “This is because they can face serious penalties if they are found guilty of committing criminal offenses”.