One of the most common questions lawyers are asked is “How long will this take to be resolved?” The legal timeline differs from case to case and depends on many factors such as the complexity of the case, the type of case, the court calendar, how many witnesses need to be interviewed, and many other considerations. 

While there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer as to the length of the legal process, there is, however, a general process that can help clients understand the point that they are in the process. 


The Court Process

Criminal cases often begin with an arrest by law enforcement for a crime. At the Law Office of Patrick Conway, we often deal with cases involving drugs, violent crime, OUIs, firearms charges, domestic violence, and probation violations. The court process is fairly similar in many of these types of cases.

After an arrest has been made by law enforcement, the person will be processed including fingerprints, booking, and photographs. A judge will then determine if the person will be released on bail, “on their own recognizance” or to be held without bail. From this point, there is an arraignment where a defendant or client is informed of the charges against them and enters a plea such as “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.” 

Before a trial begins, there will be a chance for “discovery” and a pretrial where “motions” may be handled by the courts. According to the American Bar Association, discovery is “the formal process of exchanging information (documents) between the parties (prosecution and defense) about the witnesses and evidence they will present at trial. Discovery enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may be presented.”

Motions are written requests or proposals to the court that challenge, object, or ask for a ruling on certain components of the case. Motions can help shape the direction of a case and what will be allowed in the trial. 

After this phase in the case, a trial date will be set and a trial will give both sides a chance to make their case in front of a judge or jury. After the case is completed a judgment on the criminal matter will be made and will determine guilt or innocence. 


Chronology Takes Time

Most court cases tend to follow a typical order of the legal process, but some take longer while others are fairly straightforward. Your legal counsel should be able to give you a general guideline of how long each step in the process will take. It is unreasonable to think that your court case will be handled faster than others or in an expedited manner. Keep in mind that there are many factors that can influence the length of time it takes from the start of your criminal case to a resolution. Most cases follow the same steps so your lawyer should be able to give you a rough estimate of a timeline for your specific case even if it is measured in weeks or months.