Criminal Procedure - FindLaw Blotter
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While a criminal case can go from crime to verdict in 30 minutes on television, in real life they often take months or years to resolve and have various stages from arrest to trial. For some states, that stage is a grand jury indictment.

So how do grand juries work, what does it mean when they return an indictment, and what happens after a grand jury indictment?

Top 5 Felony Questions

The criminal justice system generally breaks offenses into categories based on the seriousness of the crime -- drinking in public is a misdemeanor, while arson is a felony. But sometimes those distinctions are based not on the crime itself, but aggravating factors within the same crime.

So how are misdemeanors and felonies different? And how do courts distinguish between the two?

New Focus on Rape Kits and Sexual Assault Victim Rights

This month the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill to standardize the rights of sexual assault victims and improve prosecution of sex crimes. That federal legislation, introduced by New Hampshire's Senator Jeanne Shaheen, shone a light on rape kit reform throughout the country.

This week, Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill to ensure the timely testing of sexual assault evidence in Georgia, for example. Shaheen's federal bill focused on this type of evidence, and the grueling legal process for sexual assault victims trying to keep track of their rape kits in the criminal justice system. A key feature of The Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act that Shaheen introduced is a provision giving victims comprehensive information about their legal options, particularly with respect to rape kits, or forensic evidence collected after an assault.

Just because they're legal doesn't mean they can't get you in trouble. Prescription drug overdoses reached an all time high in 2014, when there were more deaths from prescription drugs than from cocaine and heroin combined. And prescription drugs can be just as addictive as illicit drugs, leading to similar instances of criminal behavior surrounding use, abuse, manufacture, and sale.

Here are five things you need to know about criminal law and prescription drugs:

Can I Get Arrested at Home?

You may feel safe at home, but it's not actually an arrest-free zone. The basis for an arrest is probable cause, and police can have probable cause to arrest a person pretty much anywhere, depending on the activities observed or whether they have a warrant, and other factors.

The question then is not the location of an arrest but the basis for it. Let's examine probable cause and consider how you could get busted at home.

5 Questions for Your Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of a crime and are looking for a criminal defense lawyer, you should consult with a few attorneys. That may sound costly and time consuming but it need not be -- many lawyers consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your case.

Talking to a few different attorneys will give you a sense of your prospective lawyers' different styles, fees, and experience. These questions will help you figure out what you need.

Rape Kit Basics: Collecting Forensic Evidence

In the best of worlds we would not discuss rape kits because there would be no need for such things. But according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RANIN) there are more than a quarter million sexual assaults a year in the US, and every 107 seconds someone is sexually assaulted. Nearly half of the victims are reportedly under 18.

That means we do need rape kits and we should know something about this tool of forensic evidence. So, let's familiarize ourselves with the basics of rape kits -- what are they for, what is in them, how they are used, and by whom.

How Small Crimes Get You Jail Time

If you have no contact with the criminal justice system, you might think jail is for bad people who commit vicious crimes. That's not quite right.

Jail is where people often go after an arrest, and it is where people serve sentences on misdemeanors (beyond a year of incarceration is a felony and it's off to prison). But people get arrested for all kinds of things, and some of them might surprise you.

If you're going to come into contact with law enforcement, it's likely to be over a traffic offense. Anyone who's been pulled over for speeding, rolling a stop sign, or texting while driving can tell you it's not a fun experience, mostly because we don't know what will happen next.

But because traffic tickets are fairly common, they tend to follow the same pattern, and there are some general legal principles typical of most traffic offenses. Here are five of the most frequently asked traffic ticket questions:

Can I Be Extradited on an Out-of-State Warrant?

You are wanted in one state but live in another and you're curious about whether you can be arrested on an out-of-state warrant. The answer is yes, technically, in most situations.

But whether you will actually be arrested and extradited to the state where the warrant was issued will depend on several factors. States and counties allocate different amounts of resources to different aspects of law enforcement based on their priorities, and extradition can be expensive. Not all warrants are equally important, although any warrant signals unresolved trouble, and thus should be addressed.