First Appearance is the first time a person appears in court. The judge will usually be magistrate Judge Dan Vokins. The defendant will usually appear by closed circuit TV if he has not been able to bond out of custody. If he has bonded he will appear in person, in the courtroom.
The judge will address four main issues. First he will make sure the defendant knows what he is charged with. He will offer to formally read the charges if the defendant wishes. Most defendants do not request a formal reading. Second, the judge will make sure that the defendant has an attorney. If the defendant has not been able to hire an attorney he will provisionally appoint an attorney to represent the defendant. Third, the judge will address any questions about bond. He could lower a bond or change conditions of the bond. Fourth, the judge will inform the defendant of when and where his next hearing will be.
Not surprisingly, the second court appearance is at the "second appearance docket." This is also called the "no go" docket. This is a non-evidentiary docket. Usually all that will be discussed are what kind of a hearing the case needs to be set for and when will work for everyone's schedule.
If the matter is a felony charge the case might be set for a diversion docket, a preliminary hearing, another scheduling docket, or occasionally a motions hearing. A defendant must appear at all court appearances on a felony charge unless the judge makes a special ruling.
If the matter is a misdemeanor, the case might be set for a diversion docket, another scheduling docket, a motions hearing or a trial, either to the bench or a jury.
A diversion docket is simply a scheduling docket for the court to keep track of those cases and defendants applying for diversion. The case will continue on the diversion docket until either the defendant is accepted for and enters into diversion, at which point the case is taken off the docket for the duration of the diversion period, or until diversion is denied and the case is scheduled for some other type of hearing.
Preliminary hearing is a procedure created by statute in Kansas to ensure that an impartial fact finder, a judge, has the opportunity to hear some of the evidence in a case and decide if the case is strong enough to make the person appear in front of a jury.
The prosecution must put forth evidence that the crime probably happened and that the defendant probably had some part in the crime. The standard at this stage is NOT proof beyond reasonable doubt. If the prosecutor cannot prove his case to the judge's satisfaction at this point the case will be dismissed. A dismissal at this stage is quite unusual.
A defendant may hold the hearing and listen to the witnesses called by the state and allow the judge to decide. His other option is to waive the hearing. If a defendant waives the preliminary hearing he is not admitting any wrong doing but merely telling the judge that the state does not have to bring in their witnesses right then. The case would then be set to trial.
Usually a case will be set for some sort of motions hearings before trial. Examples of motions include motions to suppress evidence, motions to suppress statements, discovery motions, motions in limine, motions to dismiss, and many others.
The point of most motions is to place the defense case in the best possible place to win at trial. It is important to remember that the State of Kansas can also file motions in an attempt to strengthen its case.
Trial in a criminal case in Johnson County Kansas District Court may be a bench trial, where the judge decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty, or a jury trial, where a jury makes that determination.
Many factors come into play in deciding whether to go with a bench trial or a jury. These include in which particular division a case is set, the nature of the charge, the particular evidence and the witnesses. These factors will need to be discussed in detail be the defendant and his attorney.
Most cases are disposed of by a negotiated disposition, a plea bargain. Important considerations in a plea bargain include the fact that it is a client's decision whether to engage in negotiations, whether to accept any offer, and that the judge in Kansas does not have to go along with a deal. Normally the judge in Johnson county will adopt a plea agreement, but they do not have to. If a person pleads guilty the State will not have to prove the elements of the crime through the use of witnesses.
Sentencing will usually occur immediately after conviction on a misdemeanor charge. Sentencing on a felony charge will usually occur about six weeks after conviction. This is because a pre-sentence investigation report must be prepared by the probation office on a felony charge.
An appeal can be filed after sentencing from a trial loss. There is generally no appeal after a plea of guilty.
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