The 13th Judicial District is staffed by attorneys, investigators, support staff and victim advocates who care deeply about those affected by crime. If you are a victim of crime, you have involuntarily become involved in the criminal justice system. The District Attorney’s Office is dedicated to advocating for your rights and helping you access appropriate resources.
There are many different resources and services available. Some of these resources are provided directly by the District Attorney’s Office, and many others are provided by other agencies in the community listed below.
A brief guide to the court process:
The criminal justice process for felony offenses begins with the crime, and the subsequent investigation or arrest of someone for that crime. Felony offenses will be handled in the District Court, while misdemeanor and traffic offenses will be handled in County Court.
Once a person has been arrested for a crime, the District Attorney’s Office may file charges. Sometimes charges are filed before the defendant has been arrested. In some cases, charges are filed directly into District Court as the result of a Grand Jury indictment.
Once a defendant is arrested or if not arrested after the filing of formal charges, the defendant will appear in court for an advisement in which a judge formally advises the defendant of the charges against him or her. The judge usually sets bond at this time, and a date is set for the next court appearance. With some felony charges, the next court date may be a preliminary hearing. In the case of other charges, it may involve a status or dispositional hearing.
At the preliminary hearing, testimony is heard to determine if there is enough evidence against the person for a trial. The defendant may waive a preliminary hearing if he or she wishes. If there is sufficient evidence, the case will be bound over for trial in District Court. The next court appearance is an arraignment.
At the arraignment, the defendant enters a plea. The defendant may plead guilty or not guilty, or if the District Attorney’s Office has offered a plea agreement the defendant may also accept the agreement and plead guilty.
If the defendant pleaded not guilty, the next step is a trial. This may be preceded by hearings on motions. If the defendant is found not guilty, the case is dismissed and the defendant is free. If the defendant is found guilty, then he or she is said to be convicted of the charges. A defendant who is convicted at trial or who pleads guilty will then be sentenced.
Once a defendant is found guilty by a jury or pleads guilty, the next step is sentencing. Sentencing can occur immediately but is usually scheduled for another date several weeks later. It is a judge’s responsibility to sentence the defendant, and having the defendant return for sentencing at a later date allows the judge to gather additional information before the sentencing decision is made.