Justice Process

The Criminal Justice Process

1. Police Report

The police report is the initial report taken by the responding law enforcement officer.  An arrest may or may not be made at the time the initial report is taken.  The law enforcement officer investigates the crime and forwards a copy of their report to the Prosecutor’s Office.

2. Charges

The Prosecutor’s Office reviews the law enforcement officer’s report and makes a decision on whether to file charges, and if so, what charges are appropriate.  If charges are filed, the court will determine whether to issue a summons or an arrest warrant for the defendant.  If a summons is issued, the defendant will be served with notice of the initial hearing date and time and he or she will be required to appear to that hearing.  If a warrant is issued, the defendant will be arrested and will remain in custody until such time bail can be posted.

3. Initial Hearing

At the Initial Hearing, the defendant is informed of the criminal charges against him or her and of applicable procedural rights.  Pauper counsel is appointed for a defendant who cannot afford to hire private counsel.  Victims are not required to be present at the Initial Hearing.

4. Pre-Trial

A Pre-trial Conference is a court appearance, before the trial date, where the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney (if the defendant is not representing his or herself) discuss issues such as the evidence of the case, discovery, possible plea negotiations, and upcoming trial dates.  Victims are not required to be present at Pre-trial Conferences.

5. Depositions

Depositions are sometimes required during the process of discovery. A deposition is a process where parties can ask questions of a witness under oath. A deposition is recorded by a court reporter and may be used at the trial in the case. In a criminal case, the deputy prosecutor and sometimes the victim assistance coordinator are present at the depositions. You must appear at a deposition if you are served a subpoena, as this is a court order

6. Guilty Plea

Before the trial date, the defendant may plead guilty and admit to the charges against him/her or may enter into a negotiated plea agreement, which the prosecution and the defendant have agreed upon.  Victims are notified of plea agreements and may (but are not required) to be present at the Guilty Plea hearing.  Sentencing of the defendant may or may not be conducted at the same time as the Guilty Plea hearing, depending upon several factors.  Victims have the right to address the Court and make a statement during the time of sentencing.

7. Trial

If the defendant does not plead guilty, the case will be taken to trial.  Some trials are conducted before the judge and are called Bench Trials.  Other trials are before a jury.  Whether a trial will be a Bench Trial or a Jury Trial depends upon the defendant.  Evidence in the form of exhibits or testimony will be presented by the State, and sometimes by the defendant. At the conclusion of the trial the parties may make arguments to the judge or jury (usually called closing statements). The judge or jury will make the determination on the guilt or innocence of the accused.  If the defendant is found guilty, a Sentencing Hearing will be scheduled.  If the case goes to a trial, victims will be subpoenaed and will be required to testify under oath.

8. Sentencing

The judge will determine the sentence to be imposed upon the defendant.  Victims will have the right if they so choose to address the court in person, or through a written statement.