Navigating the Justice System
Our goal is to provide law enforcement services through the prosecution of crimes. Answers to many of our most frequently asked questions are listed below. Generally, cases typically originate with an arrest by a law enforcement agency and then they are reviewed by an assistant district attorney. Afterward, a case may be prepared for presentation to the grand jury for an indictment. Persons indicted, or otherwise charged, are then prosecuted through jury or bench trials if a case doesn’t resolve in a guilty plea.
Are you looking for more information about the process?
Here’s what you need to know.
Generally, the steps in the criminal justice process are as follows:
Once a criminal complaint is made, law enforcement then must determine whether there’s sufficient probable cause to make an arrest.
- First Appearance
After a person is arrested, he/she must go before a judge. In some cases, bond may be set. For the most serious of crimes, only a Superior Court judge is able to set bond.
- Preliminary Hearing
If requested by the defendant, a preliminary or commitment hearing may be held at a date scheduled after the first appearance. At the hearing, law enforcement officers provide testimony about how they determined sufficient probable cause existed to support the arrest.
- Case Assigned
After being given an initial review, a case is assigned to an Assistant District Attorney.
- Grand Jury
Cases are presented to the Grand Jury (a group of about two dozen people) hears testimony from law enforcement and a summary of facts from the prosecutor before determining whether there’s enough evidence for the case to proceed through the criminal justice process.
If the Grand Jury votes that the case should continue through the criminal justice process, they issue a charging document called an indictment.
A criminal defendant enters a plea, either guilty or not-guilty, to charges.
A jury is selected by the prosecution and defense. The jury then listens to opening arguments presented by both sides. Witnesses testify and other evidence is presented. After all evidence and testimony has been presented, the prosecution and defense give closing arguments. The judge then instructs the jury on the law they should consider and deliberations begin.
A sentencing hearing is held when a person pleads guilty or is found guilty as the result of a trial. The prosecution and defense have an opportunity to present evidence. Victims and their family members also can speak. A judge issues a sentence which could include prison, probation or other punishment.