STAGES OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS
CRIME COMMITTED – After a crime is reported to law enforcement an investigation will be conducted. If after the investigation, probable cause exists, then an arrest by a law enforcement officer may be made.
ARREST – There are two basic routes a case can take in order to be brought to court:
- Arrest of the accused at the scene of the crime.
- Arrest by warrant issued by the court in response to a sworn complaint.
INTAKE WITH THE STATE ATTORNEY’S OFFICE – The victim reports a crime to law enforcement who then conducts an investigation and forwards the report to the State Attorney’s Office for review. The State Attorney’s Office may choose to file charges and issue a Capias (warrant) for the suspect’s arrest or summon the suspect into court. In both instances, the evidence available must be sufficient to convince the court that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, and that the person arrested committed the crime.
FIRST APPEARANCE – Occurs within 24 hours of an arrest. At this hearing the Judge establishes if probable cause is sufficient for the arrest and decides whether a bond amount should be set and if so, how much. During first appearance, the Judge may include a special condition of release ordering the defendant not to have contact with the victim. If you are contacted or harassed by the defendant, you should contact the State Attorney’s Office immediately.
FILING DECISION – Once the State Attorney’s Office receives the formal complaint from law enforcement, an Assistant State Attorney will review the case. If the Assistant State Attorney determines that there is sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, criminal charges may be filed.
ARRAIGNMENT – The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.
TRIAL PREPARATIONS – Throughout this preparation, there will be pre-trial hearings and continuances. These hearings and continuances will give the prosecutor and the defense attorney time to interview witnesses, take depositions and exchange evidence in preparation for the trial.
PLEA – The defendant pleads guilty or no contest for a negotiated sentence, without a trial.
TRIAL – The State will present its evidence, and then the defense will present its case. At the trial, the Judge or a jury of citizens will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
SENTENCING – If the defendant is found guilty, the Judge reviews sentencing guidelines, prior record of the defendant and determines what type of sentence the defendant should receive.
Note: It is your responsibility to keep the State Attorney’s Office informed of any address or phone number changes.
State Attorney’s Office