Your criminal case

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A crime is classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, so the punishment is milder. Felonies are more serious crimes and the punishment is more severe. There are three levels of misdemeanors and four levels of felonies, each with punishments of corresponding severity.

When a person is arrested, he or she is taken to jail. In most cases, the arrested person will be given the opportunity to post a monetary bond and get out of jail pending the resolution of the case. Bail bond companies can be hired to handle the bond process.

In most cases, at some time after the arrest, the person will be formally charged with the crime. In a misdemeanor case, this is usually done by the District Attorney's issuing a document called an information. In felony cases, the formal charging with the crime is usually performed by the grand jury's issuing of a document, at the District Attorney's urging, called an indictment. In some cases, your lawyer can persuade the District Attorney not to formally charge you and to dismiss the case — but your lawyer has to get to the District Attorney before the formal charge is made. So, don't delay in hiring an attorney.

Usually within two or three months of your arrest, the District Attorney will offer a plea agreement. If the District Attorney will not offer a plea agreement or you are not willing to accept it, then your case will be tried to a jury. (In misdemeanor cases in federal court, the case will be tried only to the judge.)

To protect your rights, it is usually best to refuse to talk to police regarding your case until you have consulted with an attorney.