Misdemeanors, Petty Offenses and Criminal Traffic cases are filed with the Court either by the County Attorney or by a law enforcement officer. Examples of these types of offenses are: shoplifting; disorderly conduct; minor consumption or possession of alcohol; indecent exposure, simple assault; and, interfering with judicial proceedings. Other violations might include game and fish or boating violations; contracting license violations; and bad check violations, DUI and other criminal traffic violations, i.e., reckless driving, exhibition of speed and driving while license is suspended or revoked.
Felony charges are also filed in the Justice Court. Once probable cause is determined by a preliminary hearing the case is transferred to the Superior Court. If probable cause is not determined, the case is dismissed.
Steps in a Criminal Case
If a law enforcement officer issues a citation, the defendant's first court appearance is called an "arraignment." Failure to appear at the arraignment will generally result in a warrant issued for the defendant's arrest. If the defendant is arrested and taken to jail, the first court hearing is the "initial appearance" held within 24 hours of arrest.
At the initial appearance, the judge determines the defendant's name and address, informs the defendant of the charges and sets the conditions for release from jail. An attorney may be appointed depending upon the nature of the crime and the defendant's financial status. A date will be set for the preliminary hearing in felony matters.
Once the charges are filed there is an arraignment. At the arraignment, the defendant enters a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. If the defendant enters a not guilty plea, the judge will set a pretrial or trial date. If the defendant enters a guilty plea or declares no contest to the charges, the judge will sentence the defendant for the crime.
Probable cause is determined by a justice of the peace at a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, the justice of the peace hears evidence and testimony from witnesses called by the prosecuting and defense attorneys. If the judge determines there is enough evidence to believe the defendant committed the crime, the defendant is "held to answer" and the case is transferred to Superior Court for trial. A new arraignment date is set before a Superior Court judge. If the judge does not find probable cause the case will be dismissed.
Trial in Misdemeanor Cases
If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial is held. The judge, or at the defendant's request, in certain eligible cases, a jury can hear evidence on the charges and find the defendant guilty or not guilty.
A bond may be required to secure the defendant's appearance at all future court proceedings. If the defendant fails to appear for a hearing, the bond could be forfeited. Once the case has been completed and the defendant is found either guilty or not guilty, the bond is returned to the bond poster.
It can take up to 30 days for the bond to be returned. It is the responsibility of the bond poster to keep the court informed of any address changes.
Pretrial Services Program
When released from jail a person may be assigned to the Pretrial Service Program. The goals of this program are:
- To keep the person connected to the Court so a warrant for failure to appear does not have to be issued.
YOU MAY NOT REQUEST A COURT CONTINUANCE BY TELEPHONE. YOU MUST MAKE THIS REQUEST IN WRITTIG, IN PERSON BY FAX OR BY MAIL. IF YOU DO NOT APPEAR FOR YOUR COURT HEARING A WARRANT MAY BE ISSUED FOR YOUR ARREST.
|Form #||Form Name|
|JP77||Public Records Request Form|