Investigation and Arrest
The very first thing you should do is to ask to speak to a lawyer.
The police often make promises that they cannot or have no intention of delivering on. There is nothing illegal about this. Do not rely on promises of leniency or the line that is your civic duty to cooperate. If you are a suspect.....the police are not your friends. If the police are asking you questions...than you are a suspect. Tell them nothing. Ask for a lawyer and shut up. Do not pay attention to their threats. If you are going to be charged, it will be because of the evidence they have. If they have evidence, they will charge you. If they do not have evidence they will not. If you talk to them, the only evidence they ever get may be your own statement. Do not think that you can talk your way out it!
What if the police ask to search your, your bags, your car, or your house? Do you have to let them search? The answer is absolutely not! You have a Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Never give the police consent to search anything. If they are asking for your permission, most likely they do have enough to perform a search without your permission. Make the police obtain a search warrant.
You have the option of release on bond unless your alleged crime is such a violent one that no bond is to be set. Some murder charges and seriously violent crimes may have no bond at all. If your offense is relatively minor, you may be released on a personal recognizance bond, and if not you may been to find a bail bondsman who will charge a fixed percentage of the bail amounts as their fee for posting the bond. They are basically making you a loan to purchase your temporary release. If you fail to appear at court the bondsman loses his money and will come looking for you or your family's assets to pay them back. Typically a bondsman will charge about ten to fifteen percent of the bail as their fee. you will not get his money back when your case is over. Try to find a bondsman who is trustworthy, has a good reputation in this community, and treats you fair.
Once you are charged (and sometimes before a preliminary hearing) you may be offered a plea bargain. You are not required to enter into any kind of plea bargain. Never take the first plea offer. You should never enter into any kind of agreement without talking to an attorney first. In a criminal case, you basically have two choices at any time. You and your attorney can negotiate and enter a plea bargain or you can set your case for trial and let a jury decided. An experienced attorney will know what the strengths and weaknesses of your case and can use that to work out the best deal for your case. The D.A. cannot make you accept a plea recommendation that you do not want. If you refuse the offer and cannot reach an agreement, than trial is your only alternative. Beware of dump truck lawyers. A dump truck lawyer is a lawyer who tries to get you to take the first off the D.A. makes. Dump truck lawyers are too scared or too lazy to challenge the D.A.'s evidence and fight for you. They never file motions to suppress or take cases to trial, they simply plead everything out. An experienced lawyer knows when to fight and when to deal.
This may mean that if they hear about other offenses of your they may be more likely to accept the prosecutor's version of the case and that you are guilty of committing the crime you are charged with. In many instances it can be better not to testify if you have a prior criminal record.
Court Appointed Attorneys
In a nutshell, this is what you can expect from the criminal justice system. There may be some procedural differences depending upon your individual charges. Most court procedures are geared toward intimidating you into entering a plea bargain. Large crowds will be at virtually every hearing. Prosecutors and court personnel will be pushing people through like a herd of cattle. The object is to dispose of cases as quickly as possible. A good attorney will throw a wrench in their works by establishing early that your case will not be quickly disposed of and that you will not be taking whatever they feel like offering. The earlier in the process you hire an attorney the better. Find a good attorney, an experienced attorney, an attorney that will fight for you.