Stages of Criminal Justice System


1. Arrest- Suspect(s) taken to jail, fingerprinted and photographed. Some are immediately released or have to post a bond to guarantee they will appear in court.

 2. First Appearance- Occurs within 24 hours of an arrest. Each suspect kept in jail must appear before a Judge who establishes whether charges are reasonable. The Judge will also consider whether a bond should be set and if so how much. The Judge will also consider conditions of release and appoint a defense attorney if the suspect cannot afford one.

 3. Filing of Formal Charges- The State Attorney’s Office will file formal charges after reviewing law enforcement reports within 21 days.

 4. Arraignment- The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

 5. Trial Preparations- The prosecutor and defense attorney interview witnesses and exchange evidence. If the defendant gives up the right to a trial and pleads guilty or no contest, the prosecutor usually offers a reduced charge or drops additional counts. If the defendant refuses to plead guilty or a deal cannot be reached, the attorneys will interview more witnesses and prepare for trial.

 6 Plea- Defendant pleads guilty or no contest without a trial. Or Charges are Dropped- The State Attorney’s Office may determine a case is not strong enough or witnesses aren’t available. Or Trial- Judge or jury decides guilt or innocence after hearing arguments.

 7. Sentencing- If the defendant is found guilty, the Judge reviews sentencing guidelines and determines what type of sentence the defendant should receive.