An arraignment is a court proceeding in which a criminal defendant is formally advised of the charges against him or her and is given options on how to proceed with their case. The defendant may choose to enter a plea, ask for an attorney, continue the case for another appearance, or set the case for trial. The defendant may also choose to apply for diversion. In some cases, a no contact order may be ordered
At an appearance, a judge will ask the defendant how he/she would like to resolve his/her case. The defendant may ask to speak with an attorney, enter a plea, or set the case for trial. Applying for diversion may also still be an option.
As a victim/witness on a case, you are allowed to attend an appearance hearing, but you are not required to be there. If you are requesting a no contact order, however, please contact your victim/witness advocate so they can request the no contact for you during this hearing.
Once a defendant has entered a plea of not guilty, the case will be set for bench trial. A bench trial is a trial in which there is no jury and a judge will hear the evidence. Victims and witnesses are subpoenaed for this type of hearing, and are required to attend. A subpoena is an order that you come to court on the date and time listed on the subpoena.
A review hearing may be scheduled for several reasons. They are generally scheduled for a defendant to turn in a diversion application or for the court to review compliance with court orders such as: payment of restitution, completion of treatment, or education classes.
At sentencing, the defendant has already been found guilty on the case and the judge is ready to sentence the defendant. Prosecutors may provide input to the judge or make sentencing recommendations. Victims are also allowed to provide the judge with input and recommendations.
Diversion/Deferred Judgment is a contract that the defendant signs with the Prosecutor’s Office agreeing to complete certain conditions in order for the charges to be dismissed. Generally, a diversion is offered to first time offenders only. Each diversion has conditions that the defendant has to perform before successfully completing the program much like probation. The assigned conditions are based on the input from the victim, the findings of the prosecutor during review, and the circumstances of the case.
The difference between probation and diversion is that after successful completion of the diversion, the charges against the defendant will be dismissed.
Victims are notified of the diversion hearing date. A Victim/Witness Advocate may contact victims with a questionnaire so that victim input can be considered in the application process. Victims are allowed to attend a diversion hearing, but are not required to attend.
Show Cause Hearing
After a conviction, the defendant is sentenced by the judge. Many sentences include a period of probation that requires certain conditions be met such as anger management, drug/alcohol treatment or other counseling classes. If the defendant is nearing the end of the probationary period and the conditions have not been met, a Show Cause Hearing is scheduled for the defendant to come to court and show or explain to the judge why they haven’t met the conditions of probation.
Victims are notified of Show Cause Hearings. Victims are allowed to attend the hearing, but are not required. At this hearing, the judge may give the defendant more time to comply with the terms of probation, revoke the defendant’s probation and send her/him to jail for a period of time, or close the defendant’s probation concluding that she/he has substantially complied with the terms and conditions ordered.
Mental Health Court
Municipal Court recognizes that there are underlying mental health issues that contribute to the criminal behavior of a defendant. Mental Health Court is a supportive probation program that coordinates with COMCARE to provide ongoing mental health support including case worker management, medication management, and transportation to appointments and court.
At the time of sentencing, the judge might order a mental health evaluation of the defendant. If recommended by the evaluation, the defendant will be ordered to attend Mental Health Court as a part of their probation. Mental Health Court includes monthly check ins with the court to track counseling visits and medication use. The defendant will be required to comply with the court’s terms of probation to remain in the Mental Health Court Program.
Victims are notified of Show Cause Hearings. Victims are allowed to attend the hearing but are not required.
The court may determine that there are underlying alcohol and/or drug health issues that contribute to the criminal behavior of a defendant. Drug Court is a supportive probation program designed to provide ongoing alcohol and/or drug support including case worker management, medication management, group treatment, individual treatment meetings, and support group meetings. At the time of sentencing, the judge will order a drug and alcohol evaluation for the defendant. The defendant will be ordered to attend alcohol and/or drug treatment as a part of their probation. Drug Court includes monthly check-ins with the court to track treatment. The defendant will be required to comply with the court’s terms of probation to remain in the Drug Court Program. Victims are allowed to attend the hearing, but are not required.