STEPS IN THE PROSECUTION OF A CRIMINAL CASE:
After an arrest, the police prepare a written report of the incident, collect evidence, take statements, etc. Once the investigation is completed, all of the information is forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office.
An Assistant District Attorney will review all of the information. If it is determined that the evidence is sufficient on which to base a prosecution, then formal charges will be filed against the defendant.
After formal charges are filed, the defendant will be arraigned. At an arraignment, the defendant pleads either “guilty” or “not guilty”. The defendant has the opportunity to hire an attorney or is appointed an attorney by the public defender’s office. Most defendants plead “not guilty” and pre-trial motions are scheduled.
In a criminal case, one or more pre-trial motion hearings may be scheduled. A motion is a written or verbal request from the attorney, for the Judge to issue a ruling or an order. A common motion in criminal cases is a Preliminary Examination. This hearing is when the Judge determines whether or not probably cause exists in the case. Usually an officer will testify as to why the defendant was arrested. If the Judge does not find probable cause then the defendant will be released from his/her bond obligation.
There are usually several cases set for trial on the same day or in the same week. In felony cases juries are selected. A trial consists of opening statements, testimony, evidence and closing arguments. The jury then decides if the defendant is “guilty” or “not guilty”.
If a defendant is found guilty by a judge or jury, he/she will be sentenced by the Judge. The Judge can also order a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI). A Pre-sentence investigation is conducted by Probation and Parole. Sentencing is usually scheduled at a later date.
Victim Impact Statement
Victims are allowed to submit an oral or written statement to the court. This statement is presented to the court in order to inform the court of the impact this crime has had on the victim’s life.