Many of our clients have never been in trouble with the law before. Some know people who have faced criminal charges and still others think that the crime dramas on TV are an accurate picture of what to expect after being charged with a crime in Wilmington or elsewhere in North Carolina.

Contact Marcilliat & Mills PLLC online or by phone at 919-838-6643 today for answers to your, “What can I expect next?” questions. Whether you have some idea of what to expect or none at all, our experienced criminal defense attorneys will walk you through the process and answer your questions about what happens after an arrest for a misdemeanor or felony state criminal offense.

Wilmington, North Carolina, State Criminal Defense Lawyer

Our criminal defense attorneys use this experience to your advantage as your case moves through the North Carolina legal system.

We thought it would be helpful to provide you with an overview of the state criminal process. We have also provided additional information on the federal criminal process on a separate portion of this website.

The North Carolina Criminal Law Process for Those Arrested and Charged With:

A North Carolina Misdemeanor

First appearance. After your arrest and the filing of formal charges comes the first appearance. This is your initial appearance in a courtroom and you have the right to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer at this appearance if you so choose. You may enter a not guilty plea at this time, if appropriate. If you decide to hire your own attorney or if the court appoints one to defend you, your case will be rescheduled. If you intend to fight for an acquittal of misdemeanor criminal charges, you typically will have to go to court.

Pretrial negotiations. This is our opportunity, as your criminal defense lawyer, to fight for a dismissal of the charges against you or to negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser offense. On average, negotiation can take up to six months, allowing us to develop a defense strategy to work toward the best possible outcome for you as well as to gather any witnesses and evidence that may assist with your defense.

Trial. If negotiations do not result in a reasonable and acceptable end to your criminal case or if you have decided you want to fight for an acquittal, a bench trial before a judge will be scheduled. At trial, the prosecutor must prove every element of the charges you face. Because of the volume of misdemeanor cases in Wilmington and New Hanover County, prosecutors are often reluctant to let things go this far and prefer to come to a bargain. But as your criminal defense attorney, we will prepare to take your case as far as necessary to obtain the best results possible.

A North Carolina Felony

Lower Court Hearings

First appearance. After you have been arrested and charged with a North Carolina felony crime, you will be required to attend the initial hearing. The judge will advise you of the charges against you, the maximum penalties you may face if convicted and your right to an attorney. You do not have to enter a plea at this time.

Preliminary settings. This is often referred to as the “discovery phase” of the criminal process. As your criminal defense lawyer, we will collect and review all the evidence, including anything the prosecutor has gathered against you.

Pretrial negotiations. Before your case goes to trial, we will meet with the prosecutor to discuss the evidence against you, find holes and weaknesses in the case against you and use all available information to negotiate alternatives to trial, including probation.

Probable cause hearing. If we are unable to negotiate a plea bargain on your behalf that represents the best possible outcome for your case, we have the option of challenging the prosecution’s evidence at a probable cause hearing. This hearing is a chance to further dig for weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case by cross-examining any witnesses who will be called to testify against you. A probable hearing is another chance to reach a plea agreement and settle your criminal case before going to trial. Probable cause hearings are extremely rare.

Grand jury. If, after the probable cause hearing, a judge allows the prosecutor’s case against you to move forward, it will next be sent to a grand jury, which will determine whether you should be indicted for the crime(s) you are accused of committing.

Superior (Higher) Court Hearings for Cases Going to Trial

Arraignment. You are required to be present. The judge will again advise of the charges against you, potential penalties and your rights. We will enter a plea at this hearing.

Motions and settlement conferences. We will create a defense strategy to pursue every option to fight the charges against you, including filing paperwork (a motion) to suppress evidence or to change the location of your trial (venue). We will continue to investigate the evidence against you as well as gather additional evidence that may assist with your defense.

Trial. Whether your case proceeds to trial is entirely up to you. We will answer your questions and give you our opinion as to what you can expect, but it is always your decision whether to proceed to trial. Proceeding to trial does not mean that there is no more time for negotiating with the prosecutor; last-minute plea deals are not uncommon.

Sentencing. If you accept a plea agreement, the sentence you will face will be part of that agreement. If instead your case proceeds to trial and you are convicted by a jury, we will work to get you the lowest possible sentence. A felony conviction does not always mean jail time. We will present all options to the judge who will determine your sentence.

More Questions About the Process? Meet With an Attorney Today

The North Carolina criminal process is complex and can be quite confusing and frightening to someone facing criminal charges. Let the experienced Raleigh criminal defense attorneys at Marcilliat & Mills PLLC, in Wilmington answer any additional questions you might have and start working on your defense strategy. Contact our firm today or call us at 919-838-6643 to meet with a North Carolina defense lawyer today.

State v. B.S.: Not Guilty Verdict in First Degree Murder Case.

In this case, our client was charged with First Degree Murder in connection with a “drive by” shooting that occurred in Charlotte, NC. The State’s evidence included GPS ankle monitoring data linking our client was at the scene of the crime and evidence that our client confessed to an inmate while in jail. Nonetheless, we convinced a jury to unanimously find our client Not Guilty. He was released from jail the same day.

State v. S.G.: First Degree Murder Charge Dismissed.

Our client was charged with First Degree for the shooting death related to an alleged breaking and entering. The State’s evidence included a co-defendant alleging that our client was the shooter. After conducting a thorough investigation with the use of a private investigator, we persuaded the State to dismiss entirely the case against our client.

State v. B.D.: First Degree Murder Charged Dismissed.

After conducting an investigation and communicating with prosecutor about the facts and circumstances indicating that our client acted in self-defense, the case was dismissed and deemed a justifiable homicide.

State v. I.R.: Reduction from First Degree Murder to Involuntary Manslaughter and Concealment of Death.

Our client was charged with the First Degree Murder of a young lady by drug overdose. After investigating the decedent’s background and hiring a preeminent expert toxicologist to fight the State’s theory of death, we were able to negotiate this case down from Life in prison to 5 years in prison, with credit for time served.

State v. J.G.:

Our client was charged with First Degree Murder related to a “drug deal gone bad.” After engaging the services of a private investigator and noting issues with the State’s case, we were able to negotiate a plea for our client that avoided a Life sentence and required him to serve only 12 years.