Steps in Criminal Proceedings

  1. ARREST/SUMMONS
    In this stage, you are either arrested or issued a summons to appear in court because there is probable cause that you committed a crime.
  2. FIRST APPEARANCE/FILING OF CHARGES
    In this state, you have your first appearance before a judge or magistrate. At that time, if you have been arrested and this is an in-custody proceeding, you will be read your constitutional rights and bail will be set in your case. If you have been summoned in on a summons, the judge will simply ask you how you wish to proceed. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, most likely your case will be set for a pre-trial conference with you (or your attorney) and the district attorney. If you have been or will be charged with a felony, the district attorney will file charges against you and the judge will read the charges you are facing. If no charges are yet filed, the judge will set another court date for the filing of charges.
  3. PRELIMINARY HEARING
    If you are charged with a felony, this optional hearing is to determine if there is the probability that the district attorney can prove the elements of the crime you are charged with. If he cannot, the case against you is dismissed. If he can, then the case is "bound over" and you must enter a plea at the arraignment.
  4. ARRAIGNMENT
    At this court appearance, you must tell the judge if you want a trial or not. If you plead not guilty, not guilty because of insanity or say nothing, the judge will set your case for trial. If you say you're guilty or no contest, the judge will set your case for a sentencing.
  5. TRIAL
    This is where either the judge or a jury will decide if you are guilty or not. If the jury finds you guilty, you next go to a sentencing. If the jury finds you not guilty, then the case is dismissed forever. If the jury cannot unanimously agree if you are guilty or not guilty, then the district attorney has the option of having another trial or dismissing the case.
  6. SENTENCING
    This is the hearing where, if you are found guilty at trial or you have pled guilty (or no contest), the judge decides your punishment.