What the general process if I am charged with a misdemeanor in the District of Columbia?
The first question you must ask yourself is whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony. Misdemeanor is any criminal offense where you are facing less than 1 year in jail. A felony is a criminal offense where you are facing more than a year in jail. In Washington, DC misdemeanors are prosecuted by 2 government entities, United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) or the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office (OAG). This article discusses the process of a typical misdemeanor going through D.C. Superior Court in Washington, DC.
Stopped for Misdemeanor in the District of Columbia
The police officer has stopped you and charged with a misdemeanor. Typical misdemeanors in the District of Columbia are Simple Assault, possession of an illegal drugs, threats, theft, destruction of property etc. The police officer has 2 alternatives at this point. He may issue you a citation release or he may hold you in custody to see a Judge within 48 hours. A citation release is usually given for low risk offenders and has strong ties to the community after he runs a record check. You will be required to sign notice for courtroom C10. Courtroom C10 in D.C. Superior Court is an arraignment court. If the police officer department holds you at the time of misdemeanor offense you will see a Judge in Courtroom C10 within 48 hours, most of the time within 24 hours. At this point you may inquire about retaining a lawyer; however it is not necessary as there will be a lawyer at your initial arraignment provided by the Court. The lawyer will represent you at the arraignment; however you will be screened for a court appointed attorney on this date and if you do not qualify you must obtain a lawyer by your next status date.
Arraignment court is open every day except Sunday. Arraignment is a formal reading of criminal information in the presence of the defendant to inform the defendant of the charges against him or her. For family members trying to find their loves who are locked up, there will be a list on the wall before entering Courtroom C10 informing which attorney has been assigned to represent your family member. At the time of arraignment the prosecutor (if known) will inform in open court whether you are eligible for diversion. Thereafter, a next court date is set which is called a status hearing. A status hearing is when you will make a decision of whether to go to accept diversion (if eligible), to set a trial date, or enter a plea of guilty.
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