Criminal Justice System-Basic Steps

Bella Collins


If there is enough evidence to prove that someone has commited a crime than an arrest or citation to appear in court is made by the Police/ Sheriffs Department. If there is not enough evidence the Police/Sheriff's Department may continue with the investigation until they feel there is enough evidence to charge the subject.
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Initial Appearance

When the suspect is taken into costudy they must be taken to a judge within 24 hours of the arrest. An initial appearance will assure that the person was properly charged, the complaint and affidavit on file are correct, an attorney is appointed for the defendant, and there is a date set for a preliminary hearing. Also, the bail amount may be made here if it wasn't already in the arrest warrant.
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Preliminary Appearance

A Preliminary Appearance is held to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to support the charges that have been made against the defendent. A Preliminary hearing almost never occurs because the same occurance of presenting evidence showing the defendant probably commited the crime, is also done by the filing of the Trial Information. Trial information are papers that present the formal charge against the defendant and a summary of that State's evidence.
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Arraignment and Plea

An arraignment is a formal accusation of the defendant where a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered. Most of the time the defendant will plead not guilty at arraignment and the judge will then set a trial date. The defendant may also waive his right to a speedy trial at this time.

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Discovery and Plea Negotiations

If a defendant pleads not guilty the defense attorney has a right to "discover" State's case evidence. This includes viewing evidentiary documents and depositions (interviews under oath) of State's witnesses. Victims and witnesses would be contancted or recieve a subpoena, if the defense wishes to take their depositions. A defendant may change the plea guilty at any time.
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If plea negotiations are not succesful a jury will be chosen and sworn in and the case proceeds in trial. Trial usually consists of:

  • Opening Statements (State's and Defense's)
  • State's Witnesses and Evidence
  • Defense's Witnesses and Evidence
  • Closing Arguments
  • Court's Instructions to the Jury
  • Jury's Deliberation and Verdict
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Victims and witnesses have a right to attend sentence hearings. Some charges require mandatory sentences that must be served. Otherwise, the court is allowed to order defendants jail time or suspend the time and place the defendant on probations. Many convictions also require the defendant to pay a fine or a restitution to a victime, for damages incurred by the crime. The court may grant the defendant a deferred judgment and place them on probation. Once the defendant successfully completes probation on a deferred judgment the conviction will be removed from the persons criminal history.
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A defendant has the right to an appeal after sentencing. In certain cases, a defendant that has pled guilty may have waived the right to appeal certain issues. In these cases, the defendants have the right to appeal a few issues to the appellate court.
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