Misdemeanor Case Court Procedures

A misdemeanor is a crime that may be punishable by confinement to a county jail for one year or less. The District Attorney's Office receives a criminal referral (reports) for criminal charges from a local law enforcement agency. The criminal referral is assigned to the District Attorney or an Assistant District Attorney.

The attorney will review the reports and determine if probable cause exists to file criminal charges. If the attorney decides charges are warranted, the attorney will dictate a criminal complaint which in turn is filed with the Clerk of Court's Office. A copy of the criminal complaint, the summons and a notice of hearing is sent by U.S. mail to the defendant (the accused).

Failure to appear at any court date will most likely result in the judge issuing a bench warrant for the defendant's arrest. It is important to contact the Clerk of Court's Office or District Attorney's Office of an address change during the criminal process.
The remainder steps through a misdemeanor case are as follows:
  • Initial Appearance: A defendant's (the accused) first appearance in court. At this court appearance the defendant may have a retained attorney present. The defendant is informed of the charges and penalties, bail is set and a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest is normally entered. If not guilty plea is entered, the defendant will receive another Notice of Hearing date being set for usually either a plea hearing, plea / disposition hearing, or a status further proceedings hearing. The defendant will also receive a letter from the District Attorney's Office stating the state's recommendation for sentencing that will be recommended to the judge and also receive a set date for a pretrial in the District Attorney's Office. A pretrial is an opportunity for the defendant, or if an attorney is retained, the defense attorney to speak to with the (assistant) District Attorney further about the recommendation for sentencing.
  • Status or Further Proceedings Hearing: A court hearing set to inform the judge if the matter will be proceeding to trial or if an agreement has been reached, it could become a plea and sentencing hearing if there is not a victim involved in the case.
  • Motions: A verbal or written request that asks the judge to decide a legal question made by the prosecutor or by the defendant before, during or after the trial.
  • Pretrial: An informal meeting with the prosecuting attorney and the defense attorney or non-represented defendant to discuss the case and receive the sentencing recommendation that the state will provide the court at the time of sentencing.
  • Trial: An official hearing in which either a jury (jury trial) or judge (bench trial) hears the facts of the case. Through physical evidence and testimony by witnesses, the prosecutor attempts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's guilt. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge may sentence the defendant immediately or set the case for a sentencing hearing.
  • Plea / Sentencing / Disposition: Defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest. A sentencing hearing follows a plea of guilty or no contest plea, or a finding of guilt by a jury or judge. If a victim is involved, the case may be reset so that the victim is notified of the sentencing court date, unless previously stated that they do not wish to attend.
Important Court Terms
  • Assistant District Attorney: An attorney who acts on the District Attorney's behalf.
  • Decline: The prosecuting attorney decides not to issue any criminal charges.
  • Dismissal: The charge or charges against the defendant are dismissed. No conviction.
  • District Attorney: Under state law, the prosecuting attorney who represents the state in each county.
  • Restitution: An amount of money set by the court to be paid to the victim of crime for property losses or injuries incurred by the crime.
  • Subpoena: A written order requiring a person to appear in court to testify. The subpoena states the date, time, place, and proceeding at which the witness must appear.
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