Once an offender is arrested, he/she goes before a District Court Commissioner who will determine if the defendant will be held on a bond, no bond or released pending trial. If a defendant is released, he/she is usually ordered to have no contact with the victim(s). If contact should occur, it should be reported immediately to the police, and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit. The victim is not required to appear at this hearing.
Between thirty to sixty days after the defendant's initial appearance, a preliminary hearing is held in District Court to determine whether there is sufficient evidence (probable cause) to believe a felony was committed and that the defendant committed the crime. If probable cause is found, the case will be sent to the Circuit Court for trial. Usually only the officer is needed to testify at this hearing.
Charges in Circuit Court:
After the Preliminary Hearing, the State's Attorney's Office has 30 days to file an "Information" (the charges) with the Clerk's Office.
If a defendant has not previously been charged before a District Court Commissioner or had a Preliminary Hearing in the District Court, the State's Attorney may present the charges to the Grand Jury to determine if probable cause exists to issue an indictment (charging document). Usually only the officer is needed to testify before the Grand Jury.
Initial Appearance in Circuit Court:
Once the information or indictment is filed, the defendant is brought into court and advised by the judge of the charges against him/her and of the right to have a lawyer. If any attorney has already entered his/her appearance on behalf of the defendant, this hearing will not occur. The victim need not be present for this hearing.
Trial in Circuit Court:
Once the defendant has had an initial appearance in Circuit Court, the court then has 180 days in which to schedule a trial date for the case. It is at this point that the victims and witnesses will be summonsed to testify before a judge as to what happened in their case. The defendant will be present throughout this proceeding.
If the defendant is found guilty, the judge has the option of sentencing immediately after the conviction, or the court may order a Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI). A PSI is a background investigation of the defendant that is done through the department of Parole and Probation and is usually completed within 6-8 weeks after the trial. If a PSI is ordered, a separate sentencing date will be announced and the victim will be notified.