The court process is often lengthy and confusing. The following is a general outline of the criminal prosecution procedures and stages. Individual cases may vary.
First Appearance/Arraignment: At this hearing, a defendant arrested with or without a warrant or served with a summons or citation appears before a judge, is advised of the nature of the charge, receives a copy of the complaint, if not already received, is informed of their rights. The Judge may set bail and advise the defendant of the conditions under which the defendant may be released.
Omnibus Hearing: If the defendant does not plead guilty, the court shall hear and determine all motions made by the defendant or prosecution, including a motion that there is an insufficient showing to believe that the defendant committed the offense charged. The court shall determine any other constitutional, evidentiary, procedural or other issues that may be heard or disposed of before trial and such other matters as will promote a fair and expeditious trial.
Pre-Trial Conference: At this hearing, plea agreements are negotiated with input from victims. Victim presence is not required but is requested. If the defendant pleads guilty, sentencing is sometimes on the same day. If the defendant pleads not guilty in any case, a trial date is set.
Trial: Criminal trials include a jury unless the defendant waives a jury trial, in which case the trial will be to the judge. Witnesses are called to testify about the facts of the case. The victim is required to testify if subpoenaed.
Sentencing: If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty following a trial, the judge imposes punishment which can include jail or prison, fines, community service, restitution to the victim, terms of probation, counseling or treatment programs, etc. Victims are encouraged to attend and give a victim impact statement.