U.S. Criminal Justice System

The Basic Process of Criminal Cases

Crime Committed

When a crime is committed there are two different things that can happen. The first is for a less serious crime, in which a citation would be issued. The second is for a more serious crime, in which the criminal would be arrested.

Initial Appearance

After being arrested, the criminal would then have their initial appearance before a judge within 24 hours. During the initial appearance, the judge would review the charges against the criminal and either post a bond or release the criminal on their own Recognizance.


Before the arraignment the state presents information at a preliminary hearing to see whether there is enough evidence showing the defendant most likely committed the crime. Then at the arraignment defendant can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at this time. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the judge will set a trial date. If the defendant pleads guilty they will proceed with the county attorney and be sentenced.


Before the trial, the defense attorney will contact any victims or witnesses. The trial consists of a jury that hears the witnesses and evidence from both the defendant and the defense. After hearing both sides of the argument, the jury with decide amongst themselves whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The Jury's decision is called a verdict.


After the defendant is found guilty, they will either be charged a fine, probation or jail time.If the defendant is sent to Jail they have the opportunity to appeal their case. By appealing, the case is brought back into court with a new jury.