How to Prepare For the Legal System As a First-Time Offender

If you’re not used to dealing with the criminal justice system and are accused of a crime, the process can be overwhelming and traumatic. In some cases, the repercussions can be felt even if there is no conviction. Although most people don’t expect that they will be convicted of a crime regardless of their situation in life, it’s important to be informed. Understanding your rights and process from start to finish will improve your chances of a positive outcome. 

The Arrest

It’s common to assume that an arrest automatically results in criminal charges, but thankfully, that’s not always the case. If you are arrested, you will be taken into custody and taken to the police station or the county jail for holding. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s important to remain calm, and not to discuss anything with law enforcement. They are trained to use tactics that will cause you to incriminate yourself, so ask for an attorney as soon as possible, and do not engage with law enforcement. It may be intimidating to refuse to answer, but it’s your right to remain silent.

Booking and Bail

After the arrest, you will go through the booking process. The police will take your photograph (also known as mug shots), record your personal information, and take your fingerprints. If official charges are brought, you will then be held in custody until your bail hearing. Bail is the amount of money that must be paid to release you from jail. The amount of bail required depends on factors like the nature of the charges and any prior convictions. An attorney can help negotiate bail terms, but if you pay them, you are making a promise that you will return for your court date. Failure to return will likely result in additional charges, and hurt your case overall.

Arraignment and Pre-Trial Process

The arraignment is your first court appearance. This is the hearing where you will be formally charged and asked to enter a plea. Your attorney will advise you on whether you should enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.” After the arraignment, the pre-trial process begins. Both your defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney will exchange evidence and relevant documentation, also known as “discovery.” It’s important to be honest with your attorney so that they can use their expertise to build a strong defense on your behalf. The prosecuting attorney might attempt to negotiate a plea agreement or plea bargain when you admit guilt in exchange for a lesser charge. This isn’t always necessary or beneficial, so a good attorney will advise you on the best course of action.


If you decide against a plea agreement, then the case will go to trial. During the trial, both the prosecution and your defense team will make opening statements, present evidence, cross-examine witnesses or experts, and make closing arguments. The jury will use the information to decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. The jury will be informed that for a guilty verdict, the prosecution should have proven your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That means that if the evidence does not sufficiently show that you committed a crime, they should vote in favor of a “not guilty” verdict. Jury members must unanimously agree one way or the other to move forward.


In the unfortunate event that you’re found guilty, the judge will consider several factors when determining your sentence. These factors can include things like prior convictions, your social standing, and the criminal sentencing statutes based on the crime committed. For example, the fines and sentencing outline for DWI convictions depend on the number of times you’ve been convicted of a DWI. Your attorney may negotiate for a more lenient sentence, such as probation or community service on your behalf, but you may also have the opportunity to appeal your case. During the appeals process, your case could be reviewed by a higher court, where they could potentially overturn the verdict or change the sentence. 

Being a first-time defendant can be one of the most challenging experiences anyone faces. However, by understanding your rights, and working with an experienced legal team, you can improve your chances of a successful outcome. If you or someone you love has been accused of a crime and is in need of legal assistance, reach out to our firm by filling out a contact form or by calling (214) 833-9414 for a free consultation.

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Law Office of Kevin B. Ross, P.C.

Texas criminal defense attorneys Kevin B. Ross and Kristen Beckman bring a team approach to the Law Office of Kevin B. Ross, P.C., a Dallas criminal defense law firm that provides PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL, and PROVEN representation to people in Texas who are accused of state and federal criminal offenses. We believe everyone deserves the strongest and most effective defense possible. The firm represents clients across Texas who are charged with crimes ranging from federal white-collar crimes to state drug charges, DWIs to murder, and everything in between.

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