A felony is a serious crime usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year or by death. Examples of felony crimes are murder, rape, arson, and burglary.
There are five processes in a felony crime arrest, arraignment, preliminary hearing, second arraignment, and trial. The first two processes arrest and arraignment follow the same procedures as a misdemeanor crime mentioned above. In lieu of a pretrial, the court will schedule a preliminary hearing for the defendant.
Three things may happen when a person is arrested by a police officer or deputy sheriff for a felony crime:
The person may be released because no charges are filed;
The person posts bail/bond or is released on his/her own recognizance (O.R.) and is scheduled for arraignment;
The person remains in custody of the law enforcement agency and is transported to the court for arraignment.
The arraignment is the defendant’s first appearance in court. At the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges against him/her, advised of his/her constitutional rights, appointed a counsel if the defendant cannot afford an attorney of his/her own choice, and has the option to enter into a guilty plea, a not guilty plea, or no contest (also known as nolo contendere).
If the defendant chooses to enter into a not guilty plea, a pretrial date will be scheduled, and the defendant is released on his/her own recognizance or the court sets for bail and the defendant is remanded into the custody of the Sheriff. At this time, the defendant may also set a court date to reduce the bail amount.
3. PRELIMINARY HEARING:
A preliminary hearing is usually conducted by a judge to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute an accused person. If sufficient evidence exists, the case will be bound over for grand-jury review or an information will be filed in the trial court. The defendant will subsequently be arraigned on the Information at which time he or she will enter a plea and proceed to trial.
The County District Attorney ‘s Office must file the Information within 15 days of the date the defendant was "held to answer" at the preliminary hearing.
The trial must begin within 60 days of the arraignment on the Information, unless the defendant enters a general waiver of the statutory time requirement or requests/consents to a date beyond the 60-day period.
Court/Bench Trial : The defendant has the option to proceed with a court/bench trial rather than a jury trial. In a court/bench trial, the judge listens to the arguments, weighs the evidence, and finds the defendant guilty or not guilty. The judge is the sole decision-maker of the defendant’s fate.
- Trial by Jury : Before a jury trial may begin, the prosecutor and the defense attorneys must select the jury from a jury pool. Once the jurors are selected, the prosecution opens the case with an opening argument, calls the witnesses, and rests the case with a closing argument. The defendant has the option to present his/her evidence or places the burden on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant commits the crime. If the defendant wishes to present his/her evidence, the defendant opens his/her case with an opening argument, calls his/her witnesses, and closes the case with a closing argument. The jury weighs the evidence and decides the fate of the defendant. If the jury finds the defendant is not guilty, he or she is released and cannot be tried again for the same crime. If the defendant is found guilty, the case will be continued for sentencing, or the defendant may be sentenced immediately. The defendant has the option to appeal a conviction to the Appellate Department of the Superior Court.
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