Procedural Steps in a Criminal CaseVictim-Witness Assistance Program
- Arrest: An arrest occurs when a law enforcement officer takes the accused into custody. Usually, a warrant will be required to arrest the accused. To obtain a warrant, law enforcement officers must go to a judge and show that there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) to make an arrest. The warrant is issued by the judge. Law enforcement officers are required to advise the accused of his or her legal rights.
- First Appearance: Accused is advised of his rights by the judge. The accused may be allowed to make bond. This determination is made by the judge. If the case is a misdemeanor, the judge is required to allow the accused to make bail. By paying for bond, the accused is allowed to be released pending the outcome of the case.
- Probable Cause Hearing: The Judge determines if there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed.
- Grand Jury: In felony cases, a grand jury determines whether the accused shall be charged formally with a crime. If the grand jury decides that the accused should be charged, they will present the prosecuting attorney with a "True Bill of Indictment". If the grand jury decides that the accused should not be charged, the prosecuting attorney will be presented with "No Bill of indictment".
- Arraignment: If the accused is indicted, an arraignment is held. The accused will answer the indictment. His answer will usually be either "guilty" or "not guilty". Often the arraignment is used to appoint an attorney for the accused, if an attorney has not already been obtained. If the accused plans to plead "guilty", the plea will likely be postponed so that the accused can discuss the case with the attorney. A "guilty" plea can be taken at a later hearing.
- Trial: If the accused pleads "not guilty", the case will proceed to trial. The guilty or innocence of the accused will be determined by a jury.
- Sentencing: If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty by a jury, the case will proceed to sentencing. Sentencing often occurs in the courtroom before the judge. The judge determines whether to sentence the accused to prison term or probation. If the judge sentences the accused to a prison term, the judge will determine the length of sentence.