Criminal charges generally begin with an investigation by a police agency. That investigation is then forwarded to our office for consideration of formal charges. If you would like to file charges against someone contact your local law enforcement agency and file a report with them; do not come to the prosecutor’s office unless you desire to file charges against a person who gave you a bad check.
The time frame can vary depending upon the nature of the crime. Sometimes cases can be filed directly from the information supplied by the investigating law enforcement agency. However, often times our office needs additional information not supplied in the initial reports and the officer investigating the case is contacted and asked to obtain that additional information or evidence. Our office works diligently to get cases filed as soon as we have all the necessary information and evidence.
Criminal offenses are broken up into two categories, misdemeanors and felonies. The range of penalties for each of which is listed below:
- Murder: 45-65 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Class A felony: 20-50 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Class B felony: 6-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Class C felony: 2-8 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Class D felony: 6 months – 3 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
- Class A misdemeanor: Up to 1 year in jail and a $5000 fine
- Class B misdemeanor: Up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine
- Class C misdemeanor: Up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine
The defendant is brought before the court for an initial hearing. The defendant is given a copy of the charging information and probable cause affidavit. Normally, the Judge automatically enters a plea of “not guilty.” A bond is then set; a determination is made as to the defendant’s ability to pay for an attorney. If the defendant is unable to pay for an attorney, the court will appoint one. Finally, the court will set pre-trial conference and jury trial dates.
That depends. Are you a victim or a defendant? If you are a defendant, do you have an attorney representing you? Prosecuting attorneys are ethically forbidden to speak with defendants about their cases if they have an attorney; the only exception is in the Courtroom when the Judge is presiding over the case. If you are a victim, you are entitled to, and should be able to speak to the Prosecuting Attorney handling the case. However, Prosecutors have many other cases to handle, and while your case is important to our office, you should keep in mind that the Prosecuting Attorney’s time is his or her most cherished asset. To that end we ask that you first contact the victim advocate assigned to your case to see if he/she can help you.
A pre-trial conference is held to determine if there are any motions which need to be ruled on; make sure the prosecutor and the defense attorney have exchanged appropriate documents; and basically make sure that everyone is on track for the trial. Many times pre-trial conferences are handled IN A MATTER OF MINUTES. In situations where the only issue is establishing new court dates, those may be handled in the court office and not in front of the judge. While the defendant must appear at these hearings victims do not need to appear.
A bench trial is a trial before a Judge without a jury. The Judge will determine the law and the facts of the case and make the ultimate determination of whether the defendant is guilty of the crime(s) charged. A jury trial is a trial before a Judge with a jury consisting of either six or twelve jurors (with alternates) depending on the crime. In a jury trial the jury ultimately decides whether the defendant is guilty or not.
Witnesses to crimes are required to appear personally in Court to tell what happened. Although it may be inconvenient, the cornerstone of a free society is the willingness of persons to appear in Court so that the truth about a crime can be known. Witnesses are not compensated for lost wages or other incidental expenses involved in testifying. Our office does its best to attempt to accommodate the schedules of witnesses, to minimize the amount of work, school, etc. they might miss. If you are called as a witness for any type of hearing, the best thing to do is contact our office the day before the event is scheduled to ensure it is still going to take place. Those who intentionally ignore a subpoena are subject to arrest.
The case will be set for sentencing, usually about thirty days from the date of the guilty plea. Sometimes a defendant will waive the thirty day period. During this time the probation department may prepare a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PSI Report). The probation officer assigned to the case should contact all victims and ask for their input and feelings about the defendant.
There are two types of orders – a civil protective order and a no contact order which is issued for a criminal case. A civil protective order can be obtained from the Clerk’s Office. A no contact order is issued for a criminal case. This order is prepared by the Prosecutor’s Office and is issued as a condition of the defendant’s pre-trial release or sentence. Once the protective/no contact orders have been filed, a copy will be distributed to the Sheriff’s Department and any other municipalities which need to be aware of the protective/no contact order.
A civil protective order is valid for one year from the date it is issued. The order may be renewed for up to one additional year if proved necessary.
A no contact order issued as a result of criminal proceedings is valid during the pendency of the case. Once the case is closed (either by conviction or acquittal) the no contact order as a condition of pre-trial release must be terminated. However, if the defendant is convicted, a new no contact order as a condition of sentencing may be issued. This no contact order is valid for the duration of the defendant’s sentence. Once the defendant is no longer serving his/her sentence, the no contact order must be terminated. At this time, if you still desire a protective order against the defendant, you must request a civil protective order.