MISDEMEANOR CASE PROCEEDINGS
A misdemeanor is a crime that has a maximum punishment of one-year incarceration or less. The following summary explains the generally case flow of the misdemeanor criminal justice system. All misdemeanor court hearings are held in the District Court.
Crime Committed / Police Notified and Investigate. Investigation may include interviewing the victim(s), witnesses and suspect(s), collecting physical evidence, photographing and measuring the crime scene, obtaining records, and so forth.
Police Make an Arrest (or Request a Warrant). When the investigating officer has probable cause to believe crime was committed the officer may arrest a suspect on the spot without an arrest warrant. The officer will later submit a charging/warrant request to the Prosecuting Attorney.
Warrant/Charging Request Reviewed by Prosecuting Attorney. This is generally the first time that the Prosecuting Attorney's office is involved in a case. The Prosecutor reviews the investigative reports and determines whether to file criminal charges and, if so, what the crime should be. If criminal charges are filed, a warrant is issued. The suspect is arrested (if not already in custody).
Arraignment. This is the first court appearance for any misdemeanor. The defendant is told what the charge(s) is/are and the maximum penalty if convicted, and is advised of his or her Constitutional rights (to a jury or bench trial, an appointed attorney, the presumption of innocence, etc.) The Judge also determines the bond (for pretrial release) along with any conditions imposed upon the defendant during his or her pretrial release.
Pretrial Conference. All misdemeanor cases are scheduled for a meeting between a Prosecuting Attorney and the defendant (or his or her attorney) to determine whether the case will go to trial or be resolved by some other means. These meetings focus on resolving the case short of trial. The Judge and witnesses are not directly involved in misdemeanor pre-trial conferences. If a plea agreement is going to be offered by the Prosecutor, it is done here.
Trial (Jury or Bench/Judge). If there is no plea agreement, a trial will be conducted. A trial is a proceeding in which the Prosecutor must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence or to present any evidence, but may challenge the accuracy of the Prosecutor's evidence. Both the defendant and the Prosecutor have the right to a trial by a jury. In a jury trial, however, the jury is the "trier of fact" and decides the case. After the evidence is presented, the judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime.
Sentencing. Sentences are at the judge's discretion. The judge will consider the information in the pre-sentence report (subject to factual corrections by the parties), additional evidence offered by the parties, comments by the crime victim, and other information relevant to the judge's sentencing decision. The judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, community service, a sentence to jail, or a combination. The judge must also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered financial harm.