·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


“I’m Facing a Criminal Charge. What Happens Next?”

— August 11, 2021

If the authorities think they have enough evidence to charge a person, they will do so.

When a crime or event is reported to police, an investigation is begun to determine whether a crime has been committed. If the authorities feel they have identified a suspect, efforts will be made to gather evidence against that person, and charges may be filed.

They can arrest the person, following which they may be bailed or remanded in custody. In other situations, the suspect may be merely brought to court.

Police interview

Typically, the police will ask a defendant whether they want to participate in a Digitally Recorded Interview. This is a recorded interview between police and the suspect that can be used as proof against the defendant if they are convicted.

It is always best not to engage in an interview until you have obtained legal advice. This is because police are usually more involved with gathering proof against the suspects than with assessing if the defendant has a defence or an explanation for their actions. 

Furthermore, police officers are skilled in questioning methods, and a suspect may unknowingly say something unfavourable to their case. This, of course, can have an impact on whatever defence they choose to mount.

When the police ask to question a suspect, it is quite probable that:

  • The police already have adequate evidence to prosecute the defendant and are obtaining evidence as part of the procedure or to strengthen their case; or
  • The police lack adequate evidence to prosecute the suspect; therefore, they seek to acquire evidence from them to arrest them.

Suspects are not required to engage in police interviews, and everyone has the right to remain silent. There are no negative effects to refusing to cooperate in a police interview.

Laying charges

If the authorities think they have enough evidence to charge a person, they will do so. This might happen with or without an arrest.

Depending on the charges, the police may charge a person at their house or the location of the alleged incident, or they may request that the individual accompany them to the police headquarters.

When a person is accused of an offence, the authorities must decide whether to issue a summons, put the accused on bail, or deny bail.

Notice to Appear

A notice to appear is a printed notification that includes the allegation, specifics of the crime, the accused, and the initial court reference date, including timings and location. It is frequently given to a defendant with a limited criminal history and for less serious crimes. For the first time, the suspect must show up in court. If they do not come to court, a warrant will be issued for their arrests. Then, based on the allegations, the magistrates may postpone the case to a later date, accept a guilty plea, or obtain a not guilty plea and schedule a hearing at the first appearance.


Image via PxHere/Inside Higher Ed. Listed as public domain on PxHere.

Bail is the right to remain in society while criminal charges are resolved. Bail is classified into two types:

Watch house bail- Watch house bail is set by the authorities who arrested you. They will decide whether to grant bail and will need the defendant to make an undertaking promising to appear in court on the date given by the police.

Court ordered bail– When the police refuse to issue release, the defendant must appear in front of a Magistrate to assess whether bail should be granted.

If the allegations are too serious about issuing a summons merely, the police must decide whether to provide bail and the conditions under which bail should be granted. The more severe the charges, the less likely it is that police will release you on bail.

First mention

When a person is charged with a crime, they are assigned a court date. This is referred to as the first mention. However, regardless of whatever court is necessary to finalise the accusations, all criminal proceedings begin in the Magistrates Court.

If the case is serious enough to warrant an indictment, the District Court will hear the charges. After that, the case will have to be referred to a higher court.

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