The charges and the maximum penalties are explained to the defendant, along with the defendant’s constitutional rights. The defendant is asked to enter a plea at the arraignment or traffic court. If a defendant pleads guilty at arraignment or traffic court, the court may sentence the defendant at that time. If there are unresolved issues involving restitution or any other matter, the court may delay sentencing to a later date. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the court schedules a scheduling conference.
A change of plea can occur at any point in this process. 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 scheduling conference is a meeting among the prosecuting attorney, the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, and the judge to schedule the various hearings. It usually occurs about 30 days after the arraignment. If the defendant persists in his or her not-guilty plea, a trial date will be set. If a plea agreement has been reached, or if the defendant decides to change his or her plea to guilty, the scheduling conference often becomes a change-of-plea hearing in the courtroom. The defendant then tells the judge what he or she did to cause the crime, and the judge sentences the defendant. As in the arraignment, occasionally the court will delay the sentencing to a later date if unresolved issues related to the crime still exist. If restitution is an issue, all restitution amounts and information must be received 10 days prior to the date of the scheduling conference.
Pre-Trial Conference & Motion Hearings
A defendant can request a jury trial, or a bench trial (a trial in front of a judge only). Misdemeanor jury trials can last from a few hours to a couple of days. Misdemeanor bench trials usually only last a few hours. A trial must occur within 180 days from arraignment, unless the right to speedy trial is waived by the defendant.
As previously stated, the court imposes sentence after the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty following a trial. Occasionally, the court will delay sentencing if unresolved issues remain. The victim has the right to present a victim impact statement and restitution information to the court at sentencing.