This is the first appearance in a criminal case. It is at the arraignment where an individual is formally charged with a crime. The issue of bail is also addressed at the arraignment. The court, after hearing from both attorneys will make a decision on setting bail. You may be released on your written promise to appeal, (“O.R.”) or you may be required to post a certain amount of money. In the most serious cases, you may be held without bail.
This is usually the second appearance in a criminal case. The pre-trial gives the attorneys in the case an opportunity to discuss legal and factual issues amongst themselves or, on occasion,
with the judge. The pre-trial may result in a negotiated plea-agreement wherein certain charges are dismissed or a certain sentence is guaranteed in exchange for a guilty plea. It is important to know that the decision on whether to accept or reject a negotiated plea-agreement always belongs to the accused. Neither the attorneys nor the judge can ever force an individual to “plead guilty”.
The Preliminary Hearing, or “Prelim” is held in every felony case. The purpose of the “Prelim” is to give the judge an opportunity to hear the evidence. After hearing the evidence, the judge
determines if there is “sufficient cause” to believe the charges against the accused. If so, the judge “binds” the accused over and the sends the case to the Superior Court. If, however, the judge does NOT find that the sufficient cause exists, the case will be dismissed against the accused.
Every individual charged with a criminal offense has the Constitutional right to a jury trial. At trial, a panel of twelve persons (a “jury”) selected by the attorneys, determines if the accused is guilty or not guilty. Both the Prosecuting Attorney and the Defense Attorney are permitted to present evidence and “put on their case.” If you are found not guilty, then your case is finished. If, however, you are found guilty, then the case proceeds to the sentencing phase.
This step is handled exclusively by the judge without the jury. At the hearing, all factors are taken into consideration in determining the sentence imposed by the court. Both the Prosecuting Attorney and the Defense Attorney are given the opportunity to speak to the court regarding important issues. Your Defense Attorney should always argue for a probationary sentence or minimum incarceration.