The charges and the maximum penalties are explained to the defendant, along with the defendant’s constitutional rights, during the initial appearance. Issues of bond are addressed, including requirements for the defendant’s behavior throughout the court process.
The preliminary hearing determines whether probable cause exists that a felony has been committed, and that the defendant probably committed it. If the court determines probable cause does exist, the case is “bound over” to district court. If the court determines probable cause does not exist, the case is dismissed. Sometimes the defendant “waives” the preliminary hearing. This means the preliminary hearing is not held, and the case is forwarded to district court for arraignment. If a plea agreement is reached and it involves a plea to an amended misdemeanor offense, the preliminary hearing may become a change of plea hearing.
At the time of arraignment, felony defendants are given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty to the felony offense(s) charges.
Motion Hearing & Pre-Trial Conference
If the defendant has plead not guilty at the arraignment, a pre-trial conference is scheduled. The pre-trial conference is a meeting among the following parties:
- Defendant’s attorney
- Prosecuting attorney
Change of Plea
A change of plea can occur at any point throughout this judicial process. Please note that It is important to provide a victim impact statement and restitution information early to ensure that information is available for the court’s consideration.
A defendant may request a jury trial, or a bench trial (a trial to a judge only). Felony jury trials can last a few hours to a few days, depending upon the number of witnesses and the complexity of the case. Felony bench trials typically last a few hours.
Once a defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty following a Trial, the court schedules a sentencing hearing. The victim has the right to present a victim impact statement and restitution information to the court for consideration at sentencing. The crime victim / witness coordinator or the Adult Probation and Parole Office may contact the victim to obtain restitution information or follow up on victim impact statements.