At an arraignment the Judge advises the defendant of the charges, the penalty and explains both constitutional and statutory rights. The defendant can either enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or stand mute. If they plead guilty they will either be sentenced immediately or scheduled for a later date. When a defendant pleads not guilty or stands mute, the Judge will set the case for a pre-trial date. If a defendant would like to have an attorney present at their pre-trial conference and they cannot afford one Ė one will be appointed however, they may be required to pay all or part of the costs of the attorney. A form for a court appointed attorney must be filled out and left at the front counter before the defendant leaves the courthouse.
At the arraignment, the Judge may require that a cash bond be posted or will order the Police Department to release the defendant on their own recognizance. A new court date will be given in the courtroom and a notice will be available at the front counter of the courthouse.
If the case is a Felony it will be set for a preliminary exam within 14 days from the arraignment date.
A Pre-Trial conference is set for the purpose of going over the facts of the case with the prosecutor and defendantís attorney, if applicable, and any complaining witnesses/victims that are involved in the case. If a resolution of the case is reached a plea agreement is signed and given to the Judge for approval. If accepted the plea is put on the record and the defendant may be sentenced immediately or at a later date. Fines and costs are to be paid at the time of sentencing in accordance with the Court Rule. If the defendant has posted a cash bond, it may be applied to the outstanding fines and costs at the time of sentencing. If another person posted a bond, that person will need to be at the court to release the bond. Should any of the bond money be returned to the defendant they may have the check mailed or opt to pick it up after 10:00 a.m. the next day.
A Preliminary Exam is set for the purpose of determining whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed with the charges. The prosecutor has to show that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed that crime. The defendant may waive their right to a Preliminary Exam and be bound over to Circuit Court for an arraignment on information within 14 days.
If a defendant chooses not to waive their right to a Preliminary Exam then the case goes to a hearing and testimony will be taken. Witnesses are subpoenaed for this hearing and should appear at the designated time. After all testimony is finished, the Judge will determine if there is enough evidence to have the case bound over to the Circuit Court.
Bench Trial / Jury Trials:
Persons charged with a misdemeanor have the right to have a trial by Judge or by Jury. If the right to a jury is waived, the Judge will hear the facts of the case and determine whether or not a crime has been committed. The burden of proof in misdemeanor and felony charges is beyond a reasonable doubt. If the person decides to have a Jury Trial the case will be heard by a Jury of their peers.
To request a Formal Hearing an individual must call within 20 days from the date the ticket is issued. Formal Hearings are only heard on civil infraction cases. A Formal Hearing is conducted in front of a Judge and a prosecuting attorney will be present. An individual who has received a ticket may plead responsible, responsible with explanation, or not responsible. If they plead responsible or responsible with explanation the Judge may accept the plea and assess fines and costs which are due that day. If they plead not responsible, the case will go to a hearing. The Judge will hear all testimony and must decide either in favor of the plaintiff, or in favor of the defendant. The burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt.
Bench Warrants / Warrant Recalls:
A warrant can be issued for an individualís arrest for the following reasons:
- Failure to appear for a scheduled court date.
- Failure to pay a payable misdemeanor ticket.
- Failure to comply with a court order to pay fines and costs.
Failure to comply with conditions of bond can result in a revocation or forfeiture of that bond. An individual has 28 days following the bond revocation date to turn themselves into the court at which time the Judge will review the bond status. Individuals who have been released on a personal bond can become indebted for the penal sum of the original personal bond.
To have a warrant cancelled an individual must do one of the following things:
- Post a cash bond to receive a new court date.
- Pay all fines and costs owing.
- Turn themselves in on the warrant any day Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m.
The Judge may require that a cash bond be posted at that time.
If an individual has retained their own attorney they may file their appearance by mail or by faxing the appearance to (313)387-2502.