What You Need to Know About the Felony Court Process in Mecklenburg County
On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Criminal Defense on Thursday, April 11, 2019
Following an arrest for a felony in Charlotte, the best thing you can do is contact a local criminal defense lawyer. If you or your loved one are unfamiliar with the felony court process, you may not have the tools you need to secure a release from incarceration, understand the charges, or prepare a thorough defense. By working with a felony lawyer as soon as possible, you will learn more about the court process, your rights during a criminal case, and your legal options.
What is a Felony?
Felonies are more serious offenses than misdemeanors. If you are convicted of a felony, it is much more likely that you will be sentenced to some time in prison. For low-level felonies, you may face only a few months of imprisonment. However, for high-level offenses, you could face years of incarceration, or life, behind bars.
Mecklenburg County Superior Court
For felony charges in Mecklenburg County, your or your loved one’s case may start in the district court, like misdemeanor charges. However, following an indictment by a grand jury or if you waive probable cause, your case will move up to superior court. The Mecklenburg County courts are located at 832 East Fourth Street, Charlotte, North Carolina 28202.
The Felony Court Process
The felony court process is more complex than the criminal court process for misdemeanors. If you are arrested or accused of a felony, you can expect the following:
You may be immediately arrested for a felony charge when the police believe they have probable cause to believe you have committed a crime or are in the midst of committing an offense. In the event that you are arrested, it may be done without a warrant if you are caught on the scene of the crime or with an arrest warrant issued by a magistrate, which is typically the case after law enforcement conducts an investigation into any allegations are made against you.
At an initial appearance, you will be asked what you intend to do about a lawyer. You may elect to hire your own or use a public defender. In most situations, the judge will not address a bond issue at the initial appearance.
Next, you will go before a judge who will determine whether you should be released from pre-trial detention, and if so, the requirements and/or conditions for your release. The judge will consider things such as your likelihood of fleeing, tampering with a witness or evidence, the facts and circumstances surrounding your charges, your ties to the community, whether you pose a threat to the community, the amount required to be posted for bail, and if your bail/bond is secured or unsecured.
Probable Cause Hearing
Also at the district court level, you may go through a probable cause hearing. At this hearing, the judge will review the evidence to determine if there is probable cause you committed an offense. This is your lawyer’s first opportunity to challenge the evidence against you and pursue having the charges dismissed. If you waive your right to this hearing, then your case will move up to the superior court.
Not all felony criminal cases begin with an arrest. If you are under investigation for a felony crime, the district attorney may convene a grand jury first. The detective will present evidence to the grand jury, which then decides whether there is probable cause you committed the offense. Along with a grand jury indictment, the court may approve a warrant for your arrest. If you were initially arrested, a prosecutor might convene a grand jury afterward to obtain an indictment. After a grand jury indictment, your case will move to the superior court.
Once your case has progressed to superior court, your lawyer will receive the discovery in your case, once it is compiled by the District Attorney’s Office. This is the legal process through which both sides exchange information. Discovery is a legal tool your lawyer will use to investigate the case and ultimately gather and analyze the evidence that supports your defense or works against you.
Depending on your lawyer’s analysis of the case, they may recommend that you negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutors. A plea bargain can be one way to minimize the consequences of a felony conviction.
If you do not accept a plea, then your case will move forward for trial. Felony offenses tried in the superior court are before a jury of twelve. In order to convict or acquit a defendant the jury must render a unanimous verdict of either guilty or not guilty.
Sentencing or Appealing
If you are convicted of the felony offense, the case will then proceed to a sentencing hearing. While the jury decides the verdict in your case, the judge will determine your criminal sentence. You may choose to file for an appeal, if there is a basis for having the conviction overturned. You also may appeal a sentence, if there is evidence it is unlawful.
Do You Have Questions About the Felony Court Process?
If you or a loved one are facing felony charges in Mecklenburg County, do not hesitate to reach out to Randall & Stump, PLLC to learn more about the criminal court process for felonies. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will guide you through this process with compassion while fighting aggressively to obtain the best possible outcome in your case. Contact us through our online contact form, or call (980) 237-4579 to schedule a free case evaluation.