Criminal Justice System

State's Attorney Sequence of Events
  1. A crime occurs.
  2. The police/sheriff’s department is notified by either the victim or a witness.
  3. The police/sheriff’s department conducts an investigation.
  4. If the police/sheriff’s have probable cause and a suspect is identified, and arrest is made.
  5. If the crime is a misdemeanor, the police prepare a complaint charging the suspect with the appropriate crime.
    • ·If no charges are filed, the report will be forwarded to the State’s Attorney for review.  The State’s Attorney and his staff will review police reports to determine if a criminal offense has been committed and if they feel that the crime can be proven in court.  There must be evidence that the charge can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before the State’s Attorney’s Office will subject someone to criminal prosecution. There must be enough provable evidence to convict the accused.
      1. 1.Many times there is no doubt that a law has been violated however charges are not filed b/c the proof of evidence is lacking.
      2. 2.The State’s Attorney’s Office will work with law enforcement to assure a complete investigation is done to obtain sufficient evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
  6. If the crime is a felony, the police contact the State's Attorney or AssistantState’s Attorney for approval of the felony charge. The details of the case are reviewed by the screening attorney who decides on what charges will be filed against the alleged offender.  A criminal complaint and/or information are filed.
    • ·The charging instrument includes the defendant’s identifiers, charge, statutory citation of the offense, case number, etc.
  7. Victims will be notified of the charges being filed and what has happened in court by the Victim Witness Coordinator.  Victims and Witnesses need not be present at the first appearance.
    1. Victims and Witnesses are updated regarding the case throughout the process by the Victim Witness Coordinator
      1. The Victim Witness Coordinator also is available to answer questions and assist victims and witnesses in understanding the many phases of a criminal case.
  8. A bond hearing is held within 48 hours of an arrest. A Judge sets the bond amount. The bond is used as means to ensure the defendant's appearance at court. It is not a form of punishment.
    1. Most defendants post bond and are released from custody pending their trial or even before the bond hearing.
  9. The case is assigned to a courtroom and an AssistantState's Attorney (depending on the size of the county)
  10. If the crime is a felony, a preliminary hearing or a Grand Jury proceeding is held to determine if a crime has been committed and there is reasonable grounds to believe the alleged offender committed the crime.
  11. An arraignment is held at which time the defendant is formally charged with the crime and a judge informs the defendant of Constitutional rights.
  12. The case enters the discovery phase where both the assigned AssistantState's Attorney and the defense attorney collect the evidence in the case and prepare for trial. Police reports, medical examiner reports, lab results, fingerprint tests, gunpowder tests, blood samples, hospital reports, photographs and other evidence is collected and reviewed.
    1. Many of these reports can take several weeks and months to complete.  Forensic evidence usually takes the longest to obtain.
  13. A series of court dates are set by a judge in order to determine that the case progresses in a timely fashion. Examples of these preliminary court dates are for discovery orders (exchange of investigative reports), pretrial motions, hearings, etc.
    1. At this stage or at any stage the defendant can plead guilty or make a blind plea.
      1. There may be a negotiated plea agreement between the State’s Attorney and the Defense Attorney.  If so, the Judge will have to approve the plea agreement in Court
        1. i.e. probation, fine, restitution, etc.
      2. If the defendant pleads guilty and there is not a plea agreement, skip to #17
  14. A trial date is set by the judge.
  15. The State's Attorney or AssistantState’s Attorney and Victim Witness Coordinator prepare the case for trial by contacting expert witnesses and interviewing all witnesses.
  16. The defendant has the option whether to have a bench trial (without a jury), or a jury trial.
  17. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge orders a Pre-Sentence Report by the Probation Department and a sentencing hearing is scheduled. A Pre-Sentence Report details the specifics of the crime, gives a background history of the defendant and if requested by the judge makes a sentencing recommendation.
  18. At the sentencing hearing the State's Attorney or AssistantState’s Attorney argues for an appropriate sentence and may introduce evidence of past criminal involvement. The State's Attorney or AssistantState’s Attorney may ask a victim to read a Victim Impact Statement detailing how this crime affected the individual. The defense will argue for what they believe is an appropriate sentence and may introduce evidence in mitigation. After arguments, the judge determines the sentence.
    1. The sentence may include:
      1. Probation (conviction, deferred judgment/supervision)
      2. Prison or Jail
      3. Fines and Court Costs
      4. Community Service
      5. Restitution
      6. Treatment/Education(alcohol, anger management, substance abuse, etc)