A Map of the Felony Court Process
When someone is charged with a felony it can be overwhelming. There are several steps involved in the prosecution and defense of such a case. In any felony there is a two step process by which cases are charged. The first step is that a person is charged and arrested. The second step is called preliminary hearing or grand jury indictment. Preliminary Hearing is where the facts of the arrest are heard by the Judge who then determines if the facts warrant the case to be held over for trial. It has nothing to do with guilty or innocent. Once the Judge determines that there is sufficient reason to hold the case over for trial, the case will move to arraignment. The alternate process is called Grand Jury Indictment. This is where the Grand Jury hears the facts of the case and determines if there is sufficient enough basis to hold the case over for trial. Again, this has nothing to do with guilty or innocent. Either way, once the charges are formalized the case is set over for arraignment. Once you set the matter for Preliminary Hearing, it is possible that before your next court date that the case proceeds to grand jury. If this happens you will be notified by mail that the case has been indicted. If you receive notice in the mail that your case has been indicted note your new next court date, room and time. Included with that paperwork will be a notice that the grand jury issued a warrant on the indictment. Do NOT be concerned that anyone is looking for you. Rather, the bond you posted or signed for, in whatever amount, will be applied and found sufficient for the now formalized charges against you.
The next step in the process is arraignment. Arraignment is where the Judge tells you the now formalized charges against you, the maximum potential penalty and asks if you understand.
Once arraignment is complete the Judge will issue a reciprocal order for discovery. Discovery is all of the reports, videos, photographs, statements or anything else the state is in possession of. There can be no surprises. The state must turn over copies of everything. Once discovery is complete, you can review the information and make a determination of what is the best course of action for your particular case. The options would include filing various motions to eliminate certain portions of evidence from the State’s case, seeking to dismiss the charges, working on a negotiated plea deal or setting the matter for trial by Judge or Jury.
This is just a general outline of the process and the words used in that process. It is intended to provide a map of the territory – not a full explanation of your personal situation. Every case and every client are different. Please contact our office directly to learn more.