A criminal case can begin in a variety of ways.
One is by summons. This is when the police file an application for a criminal complaint at the district court. On the date indicated on the summons, a hearing before a clerk magistrate occurs and at that time, the Magistrate determines whether there is probable cause to issue a criminal complaint.
More commonly, a criminal case begins upon an arrest by a police officer. If the arrest happens during regular court hours, the accused is brought straight to court. If the arrest occurs during the night, then the accused can be bailed out for a fee of $40 unless the Magistrate decides on a higher amount, until court the next morning.
Another way a criminal case can begin is by the Indictment by a Grand Jury in Superior Court for very serious felonies.
What happens if there is a criminal complaint?
Once there is a criminal complaint, the first action at court is the Arraignment. At that time, the defendant is informed as to the charges before him or her. If the prosecutor is seeking bail, a bail hearing will occur before a judge who will decide how much bail will be set, if any. On more serious cases, sometimes the prosecutor will ask for a dangerousness hearing where the accused could be held in jail up to 60 days.
What is the process moving forward?
The next event generally is a pre-trial conference where the defense attorney meets with the prosecutor to see if the matter can be resolved. The defendant is entitled to full discovery of the prosecutor’s case. If the matter cannot be resolved, the defendant is entitled to a Trial before either a judge or a jury.
Paul Santos Law