Criminal Justice Process
How does the criminal justice process work?
When a crime is reported, the police are responsible for conducting an investigation. After completing the investigation, the police may charge an offender by issuing a criminal citation or they may submit the report to the City Prosecutor to determine whether a complaint should be filed.
If a report is is submitted, the City Prosecutor reviews the report and decides whether to charge a crime. A criminal case begins when a complaint is filed with the court. The complaint sets out information about both the defendant and crime(s) that have been charged. Usually, this is the ticket issued by the officer. Sometimes, it’s a complaint authorized by the City Prosecutor.
If you are in jail, you will have an initial appearance within 24 hours of being arrested. The purpose of this hearing is to advise you of the charge(s) against you and to consider issues related to pretrial release, including bail/bond and No Contact Orders in domestic violence and other victim cases.
One of the first hearings in a criminal case is the arraignment. At the arraignment, the defendant is formally informed of the charge(s) against him or her and is asked to enter a plea of Guilty, Not Guilty or No Contest.
The next hearing is the pre-trial conference. The purpose of this hearing is to make sure everything is in order prior to going to trial. The parties may file motions and address any other issues. Additionally, this is the opportunity to ensure discovery has been exchanged by both parties. The parties will determine if there will be a negotiated settlement or if the case will be set for trial. Most cases are settled without trial.
If the case is not settled it will be set for trial either with a jury or with the judge alone (bench trial). The length of a criminal trial varies depending on the charges, the number of witnesses, and other factors. Most trials in Municipal Court last one or two days. Juries are made up of six persons. In a criminal case, the jury must be unanimous in reaching a verdict, whether for guilty or not guilty.
I’ve been charged with a crime. Now what?
A person charged with a criminal offense has a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, you can ask that the court appoint one to represent you. If you are eligible for a court-appointed attorney, the Municipal Court will appoint one to represent you at reduced or no cost as determined by the court. You may also represent yourself. If you have an attorney, the prosecutor is required to talk to your attorney and is prohibited from discussing the case with you without your attorney present. You have the right to remain silent regarding the facts of your case. If you waive that right and talk about your case, the prosecutor may take note of what you say and use it against you later.
Sentencing Guidelines for Misdemeanors
Some misdemeanors have mandatory minimum sentences.Some misdemeanor offenses such as DUI, domestic violence offenses and graffiti offenses have additional mandatory consequences. These may include counseling, Ignition Interlock Devices, community service, restitution or other requirements.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
0-3 years unsupervised probation
0-$2,500 fine plus surcharge
0-180 days jail
Class 2 Misdemeanor
0-2 years unsupervised probation
0-$750 fine plus surcharge
0-120 days jail
Class 3 Misdemeanor
0-1 year unsupervised probation
0-$500 fine plus surcharge
0-30 days jail