THE CRIMINAL COURT PROCESS
help and cooperation of victims and witnesses are very important to our
criminal justice system. When you report a crime and/or testify,
you make our community a safer place to live. The following
information explains the criminal court process.
POSSIBLE OUTCOMES OF PROSECUTION
There are a
number of possible resolutions or dispositions of a criminal case or
charge. A case may proceed to conviction and sentencing. A
person can be sentenced only if convicted. A person can be
convicted only on his/her plea of guilty, or by a finding of guilt after
a trial to a judge or jury.
There are a
variety of sentencing possibilities. The range of possibilities is
set by law. However, within that range the judge determines the
sentence. An option the court has in most cases is probation.
Probation may be ordered when a sentence is withheld or stayed.
When probation is ordered, the judge may also order that the probationer
comply with certain conditions that may include jail, treatment, no
contact with victims, and others. If the offender violated
probation and probation is revoked, the offender is returned to court
for sentencing, or a term of imprisonment previously stayed is then
sentencing options available to the court are fines, jail and
imprisonment. As stated earlier, the maximums available to the
court for the crime are set by law, but the court determines sentence
within that range.
convictions are the result of a plea of guilty by the defendant.
Many of these guilty pleas are the product of negotiations between the
prosecutor representing the State and the defendant. Negotiations
may result in complete or partial agreement between the parties
regarding the final outcome of the case. This agreement is then
presented to the judge for approval. When all or some of the final
outcome is not agreed to by the parties, both sides have the opportunity
to present their positions to the judge, who then makes a final
sentencing decision. A person convicted of a crime, even one who
enters a plea of guilty, has the right to appeal his or her conviction.
Most persons convicted of a crime do not elect to do so, however.
If your case is appealed, information about this process can be made
available to you.
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