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A criminal case has a number of stages, from arrest to sentencing and finally there being an appeal.  This paper gives an overview of what happens during the pre-trial stage of a criminal case.

An individual is first arrested this can occur when a law enforcement officer has seen an individual commit a crime, or has enough reason to believe that an individual has committed or is just about to commit a crime. The arrested person is no longer free to leave or move about. Some physical restraint like handcuffs may be used but what is important is the authority of a law enforcement officer. The arrested person is taken to a police station where they are "booked", or entered into the police information system. This will include getting the personal information of the arrested, taking fingerprints of the personal arrested, and the confiscating personal property the individual might have at the police station. After booking, the arrested person placed into a cell (Siegel and Senna 2009).

An arrested person can pay bail which is money that is paid by an arrested person in exchange for their release from custody. The person agrees to appear in court for all scheduled proceedings as a condition of this release. In some cases, the individual is not allowed to post bail right after booking, and needs to wait either until a bail hearing is held, or for the arraignment.  If this is the case, a judge will decide whether to release the individual on bail, and can set the bail amount. An individual is later arraigned in court (Orfield 2005).

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This stage is the beginning of all criminal charges. An individual at this stage needs to get the services of a lawyer or someone who understands the law and the process.  If one has been charged with a crime, it is crucial to get the services of a criminal defense attorney.  A criminal defense attorney will inform you of your rights, help by guiding you through the process, and will also argue in court on your behalf. All criminal cases has to follow the pretrial in the above procedure.

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