Steps of the Criminal Court Process
What to expect if you are facing criminal charges.
ArraignmentOnce you are cited with a criminal offence, your case will be set for arraignment. This is the "first appearance." At arraignment you have several options. You can 1) Plea "not guilty" and your case will be rolled to your linked judge. 2) You can plea Guilty or No Contest and resolve the case at the arraignment setting. Unless you fully aware of the consequences that surround entering into a plea, it's best to consult an attorney to discuss your options.
If you want the opportunity to review the discovery or the evidence that the state has against you, then you must plea not guilty. This does not mean that you are going to trial. Or that you are waiving your opportunity to enter into plea negotiations. It's just the legal procedure required in order to move forward with the case.
Pre-TrialA pre-trial is the first setting in front of your assigned judge. Sometimes this is also referred to as a "plea or trial setting. Here, the prosecutor and defense attorney discuss the case, exchange discovery, and can negotiate a plea resolution. There can be multiple pre-trial settings before the case goes on to motion, trial or is resolved.
Motion to SuppressIf there is a constitutional issue with your case, then your attorney should file a motion to suppress that evidence, or any gathered as a result of the constitutional violation. Typically motions to suppress are related to probable cause to stop, probable cause to arrest, or statements made in violation of 5th amendment.
Here, the police officer will be present and there will be live testimony similar to a trial. The police officer will testify to what he observed and what happened in relation to the stop, arrest, or statements. Then, the judge decides if there is a constitutional violation.
Motion in LimineA motion in limine is a motion concerning evidence issues. If there is a certain exhibit that the your attorney believes is inadmissible, if there are prior bad acts or criminal convictions that your attorney believes are inadmissible, if there is a piece of evidence or an exhibit that your attorney believes is inadmissible in trial, he or she would file a motion in limine. The, there is a hearing on whether or not the prosecutor can use that piece of evidence or if it will be excluded from the trial.
TrialOnce all motions are heard the case is set for trial. The trial can be a bench trial or a jury trial. The defendant and his or her counsel decide what is more appropriate or beneficial for the case.
Once the trial is concluded- the judge in a bench trial or the jury in a jury trial decide if the state has proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. If yes, then the defendant is convicted. If no, then the defendant is acquitted.
In a misdemeanor case, there are 8 jurors, in a felony case there are 12 jurors. All jurors must agree unanimously in order to convict or acquit. If they cannot come to a unanimous decision, the case will result in a "hung jury." If there is a hung jury, the state decides if they want to try the case again, offer a plea bargain, or dismiss the case.