Criminal Defense Process
- First step in the process;
- Official notification to Defendant of charges and possible punishment against him or her;
- Defendant enters plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest;
- If charged with a misdemeanor, the court will set your next appearance for Trial or Pre-Trial;
- If charged with a felony, the court will schedule your matter for preliminary hearing;
- The court will establish bond; and
- If entered guilty plea to misdemeanor, sentencing may occur.
This is a meeting between the Prosecution and the Defense. This provides the opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s case, plea bargain possibilities and discovery issues.
Preliminary Hearing (Felonies only)
This is a hearing where a Judge decides if there is enough evidence to bind a case over to the Grand Jury. It is a low burden of proof as the State must only show that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed and that the Defendant is the one who committed it.
Grand Jury (If Felony Bound over)
Secret Proceeding where a body of twelve citizens decide whether or not someone should be indicted and for what charges.
Plea bargains are a way to avoid a more serious conviction by pleading to a lighter one. Some Judges and Prosecutors are more inclined to plea bargain than others.
This is the fact finding phase of a case and it may be a bench trial (to the Judge) or a jury trial. Defendants are entitled to a trial by jury for all misdemeanor or felony charges. The burden of proof lies with the Prosecution to prove a Defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.