Chapter 13: Criminal Justice Process:
Proceedings Before Trial
Every criminal case goes through several
standard proceedings before it reaches court. In some cases,
these proceedings eliminate the need for a trial.
Booking and Initial Appearance Booking
is the formal process of making a police record of the arrest.
The accused person first provides some basic information for
identification purposes and then is fingerprinted and photographed.
Within a short time of arrest and booking, the accused must
appear before a judge. The defendant has an attorney appointed
or is given the chance to obtain one. At this stage, the judge
decides if the defendant will be released on bail or remain
in jail while awaiting trial.
Bail and Pretrial Release Bail
is an amount of money that an arrested person puts up in order
to be released from jail while waiting for trial. The purpose
of bail is to make sure the defendant appears at the trial.
If the person fails to return for trial, the court keeps the
money. Sometimes the court will release a person before trial
without requiring bail because there is very little chance
the person will attempt to flee.
prosecutor's information details the nature and the circumstances
of the charges brought against a defendant. This information
is a formal criminal charge filed with the court based on
the information collected during the initial investigation
of the case.
Preliminary Hearing A
preliminary hearing is a screening process used in felony
cases to decide if there is enough evidence to make the defendant
stand trial. If enough evidence supports the prosecutor's
case, the defendant will proceed to trial. If the judge finds
no probable cause, the case may be dismissed—but this
does not necessarily mean that the case is over.
Grand Jury A
grand jury is used by many states in place of the prosecutor's
information or a preliminary hearing. It is a group of 16
to 23 people who determine whether there is enough evidence
to show that a person has committed a crime and should go
to trial. Only the prosecutor submits evidence to the grand
jury. Neither the accused nor his or her attorney is allowed
to appear. A judge is not present and rules of evidence do
Felony Arraignment and Pleas After
an indictment or information is issued, the defendant must
appear in court to enter a plea. If the defendant pleads guilty,
the judge will set a date for sentencing. If the defendant
pleads not guilty, the judge will set a date for trial and
ask whether the defendant would like a trial by jury.
Pretrial Motions: The Exclusionary
Rule A motion is a formal request that
the court make a ruling or take some other action. Common
motions include a defendant's motion to obtain certain evidence
from the prosecution, a request for more time to prepare the
case, a request for the trial to be held in a different location,
or a motion that certain evidence should be excluded at the
Plea Bargaining The
plea bargaining process is often used to obtain guilty pleas
before the trial begins. Most criminal cases never go to trial
because most defendants plead guilty beforehand. In a plea
bargain, the accused often will agree to plead guilty in exchange
for a somewhat reduced sentence.