Appearing in Court on a Citation or Misdemeanor Criminal Complaint
1. The first appearance on a petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor is called an arraignment. A Judge will advise a defendant of his or her legal rights, and may appoint a Public Defender if the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, requests a Public Defender and is financially eligible. A defendant, or the defendant’s attorney, will have an opportunity to speak with the prosecuting attorney at the arraignment. If the defendant is in custody at the time of the arraignment, a judge may set bail and/or conditions of release from custody.
2. If a defendant fails to appear at the arraignment, the judge may issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest.
3. The defendant may enter a guilty or a not guilty plea at the arraignment. If a guilty plea is entered, the Judge will pronounce a sentence from the bench, or may order Arrowhead Regional Corrections, the local probation department, to complete a pre-sentence investigation (PSI) and make sentencing recommendations to the court. If a pre-sentence investigation is ordered, the Judge will pronounce a sentence at a later date, after the completion of the PSI. The Judge may sentence a defendant to a fine if the charge is a petty misdemeanor. If the charge is a misdemeanor, the Judge may sentence a defendant to a fine and/or jail time, and other probationary conditions.
4. If a not guilty plea is entered in a petty misdemeanor case, the case is set for a court trial. A court trial is a trial to a judge, not a jury. The prosecutor has the burden of proving the State’s case beyond a reasonable doubt and must present evidence. The defendant is presumed innocent and does not have to present evidence or testify, but may present evidence and/or testify if he/she wishes.
5. If a not guilty plea is entered in a misdemeanor case, the court sets the case for a pre-trial conference. At a pre-trial conference, the prosecutor and the defense attorney, or the defendant, if not represented by an attorney, attempt to reach a resolution of the case.
6. If the case is not resolved at the pre-trial conference, the court will set a date for a jury trial. In a jury trial for a misdemeanor, the prosecutor has the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt and must present evidence. The defendant is presumed innocent and does not have to present evidence or testify, but may present evidence and/or testify if he/she wishes.
7. If the defendant is acquitted, the case is over. If the defendant is convicted, the Court will pronounce a sentence or order probation to prepare a PSI and then pronounce a sentence.