Felony convictions have serious consequences. A person can lose their job, family, status in the community, ability to vote or own a firearm, and possibly face substantial time in prison. Triangle Criminal Defense Group’s lawyers and attorneys in Raleigh, NC and Wake County analyzes every piece of evidence from the prosecution’s investigation and we carry out our own investigation for exculpatory evidence when needed. When we cannot secure a dismissal or negotiate a favorable plea, we are prepared to take the case to trial.
After a person is arrested for felony charges and processed, they are taken before a magistrate who sets bail and other conditions of pretrial release. A first appearance is then scheduled in front of a District Court judge within 96 hours of being arrested or at the next session of District Court within the county, whichever is first. At the first appearance, the District Court judge reviews the defendant’s pretrial release conditions and schedules a probable cause hearing in District Court.
Probable cause hearings, in practice, serve as administrative settings before the case is bound over to Superior Court. Pleas can be negotiated for certain low-level felonies at the District Court level. Motions practice has not yet begun because the case is still in District Court and not yet in front of a Superior Court judge. Actual probable cause hearings are infrequent because the grand jury can indict even if a District Court judge finds there is no probable cause to arrest.
The case moves to Superior Court if the grand jury returns a true bill of indictment or the case proceeds on information. Once in Superior Court, administrative court appearances are held while the prosecutor and defense attorney share discovery, argue motions, and negotiate a possible plea. Admin settings give the defense attorney and the prosecution a chance to report to progress and next steps to the judge. If felony charges are not dismissed by a successful motion or a plea agreement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial by jury.
Some State charges violate Federal law, as well, and have the potential of being indicted in Federal court. Double jeopardy does not prevent the Federal prosecutor from filing charges because the State government and the Federal government are separate sovereigns in the eyes of the law.
Drug trafficking and sexual exploitation of a minor, more commonly known as possession of child pornography, are two crimes frequently reviewed by Federal prosecutors. With drug trafficking, the weight and presence of a firearm factor heavily into the decision whether to indict in Federal court.