How are Misdemeanors and Felonies Processed?
The following is a guest post written by Aaron Bortel. The subject matter in this post does not reflect the opinions of the Law Office of James Alston
Any crime committed in violation of a public law is taken to court, and most likely, it will be classified as a misdemeanor or felony offense depending on the severity of the crime and the consequences surrounding it. Criminal laws for handling misdemeanor and felony offenses differ from state to state, but the major classification for crimes is that least serious offenses are categorized as infractions, while the most serious offenses are classified as felony offenses. However, in some instances, the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony may not be clear-cut, as it is determined on the seriousness of the crime and the impact on victims and the society as a whole.
Misdemeanors, infractions and felony offenses are filed and processed differently in court. Here is what you need to know about how misdemeanor and felony offenses are processed:
A misdemeanor offense case is filed by the police agency with the District Attorney’s Office for prosecution. If the District Attorney’s Office decides to prosecute the case, a document called an ‘information’ is created to notify the defendant as to the offense for which he stands charged. This document is a written statement filed and presented on behalf of the State where the offense took place by the district attorney, charging the defendant of the offense.
The document is then processed and a file is generated and the case is assigned to any one of the misdemeanor courts.
Like the misdemeanor cases, a felony offense is also filed by the police agency with the District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney’s Office generates an indictment, which is a written statement of a grand jury accusing a person of the offense. The indictment is a charging instrument which puts the defendant on notice regarding the charges he or she is facing.
After the paperwork is ready, the case is then brought in front of a grand jury to be heard. The jury then reviews the information brought forward by the police and decides whether sufficient evidence is available to believe that an offense has occurred.
In all felony cases, the defendant has an absolute right to have the case indicted by the grand jury. The grand jury itself is a panel of citizens who review the information presented forth.
Once the case is filed, it is randomly assigned to a felony court, out of the several felony courts. However, it may take two or three weeks before a grand jury actually hears the case. The grand jury will then issue a true bill of indictment or no bill.
If the grand jury issues a true bill, it means that the grand jury found enough evidence to believe that the offense occurred. In case of no bill, it means that the grand jury did not find enough evidence to proceed with the case that was filed.
If the grand jury issues a true bill, the case is then forwarded to the felony court to which it was assigned earlier.
The court will then proceed with the conviction according to the laws of the state.
This article was written by Aaron Bortel. He has been practicing for 20 years handling criminal defense and DUI defenseand has handled about 2000 DUI cases.