Adult Criminal Prosecution Process
When a crime is reported to law enforcement, an investigation is conducted which includes interviews and evidence collection. If there is sufficient evidence, the investigator presents the information to the County Attorney and requests a criminal complaint be considered. In criminal cases the victim does not bring charges against the accused person. It is the prosecutor or County Attorney, an elected official whose jurisdiction is determined by county boundaries, who coordinates the government’s response to crime.
An Assistant County Attorney is assigned to the case and reviews the information for a charging decision. The County Attorney’s Office may decline to file charges or may request further investigation. If there is sufficient evidence to support criminal charges, a written complaint is file against the individual(s) who committed the offense. The defendant is provided with a copy of the complaint and a court appearance is scheduled. In some cases, the defendant will be arrested immediately following the report of an offense.
Rule 5 Hearing
A rule 5 hearing is when the defendant makes his/her first appearance in court.
Rule 8 Hearing
A rule 8 hearing is when the defendant's legal representation is addressed.
An omnibus hearing is when the defendant argues that his/her constitutional rights have been violated. The judge rules on admissibility of evidence. This is an optional hearing.
A plea hearing, also referred to as a Felony Early Disposition (FED) hearing, is when the defendant enters a plea of guilty to agreed upon charges. No trial will take place.
A court trial involves a judge who determines whether the defendant is guilty. A jury trial involves a jury that determines whether the defendant is guilty.
Sentencing is when the judge imposes sentence. Under a plea agreement, the judge could not impose a longer or harsher sentence but may impose a shorter or more lenient sentence.
Juvenile Delinquency Court Process
An offense committed by a juvenile (a person under 18) that would be a crime if committed by an adult is subject to juvenile court prosecution. If law enforcement determines there is sufficient evidence that a juvenile has committed a crime, he/she forwards the evidence to the County Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges.
Although a victim’s input is always considered, the ultimate decision to charge an offense is made by the County Attorney’s Office. If the County Attorney’s Office decides there is sufficient evidence and the matter should be charged, a petition is filed with the court. The primary emphasis of the juvenile system is the quick resolution of charges and rehabilitation of the juvenile offender. Juvenile proceedings are generally subject to more privacy than adult proceedings.
Although there are some exceptions, generally a juvenile offender’s arraignment hearing and trial occur in the county where the offense occurred, but the disposition hearing will be held in the county of residence.
A juvenile who is taken into custody for a crime has been detained. The officer may either release the juvenile to a parent or guardian, or continue detention. The law requires that the juvenile is to be released unless the juvenile:
Would endanger themselves or others, or
Would not return for a court hearing, or
Would run, or
The juvenile’s health or welfare would be endangered
A juvenile in detention must come before the court within 36 hours for a detention hearing. At that time a decision will be made as to whether or not detention should continue. Most juvenile offenders are not detained.
At this hearing the juvenile will admit to or deny the offenses alleged in the petition. The juvenile is entitled to an attorney and may apply for a public defender. If the juvenile denies the offenses, the case will be sent on for pretrial or trial. If the juvenile admits the offense, the case proceeds to disposition, either immediately or at a future date.
Juvenile trials are heard by a judge; there are no jury trials in juvenile court, except in Extended Jurisdiction Juvenile cases. A juvenile is entitled to all of the other constitutional protections afforded to an adult such as presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The judge will make a determination that the petition is either proven or not proven. If the judge finds that the petition has been proven, the case is ready to proceed to disposition (sentencing). Disposition is often held immediately, but may be set for a future date. If the judge finds that the petition has not been proven, the case is dismissed and there are no further proceedings.
This hearing occurs either upon a plea of guilty or upon a finding after trial that the petition has been proven. The judge will impose a disposition with conditions for the juvenile to follow.