The criminal justice system can be confusing to victims and their families. Members of the MDT are always happy to answer questions you may have. The Flowchart of the Criminal Justice System and these nine steps may help clarify the process.
- Arrest: The police file charges against the defendant alleging a violation of criminal law.
- Preliminary Arraignment: The defendant is advised of charges filed against him/her and is advised of future hearing dates. Bail is set to ensure the presence of the defendant at trial.
- Preliminary Hearing: The Commonwealth must establish that a crime has been committed and that the defendant more than likely committed it. There will be no determination of guilt at this phase. A victim advocate can accompany you to this hearing and all future hearings.
- Formal Arraignment: Defendant is formally advised of the charges that have been filed against him/her by the District Attorney’s Office. This hearing is a formality, and victims often do not attend.
- Pre-Trial Hearings: If pre-trial motions, such as a Motion to Suppress Evidence, are filed, a hearing is held before the trial, where the court will rule on the motions.
- Pre-Trial Disposition: A defendant may be placed on a pre-trial diversionary program or may choose to enter into an open plea or negotiated guilty plea.
- Trial: The Commonwealth has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial can take place before a jury of 12 people or before a judge.
- Sentencing: If the defendant is found guilty at trial or pleads guilty, the defendant will appear before a judge for sentencing.
- Appeal: The defendant has the opportunity to appeal his/her conviction to a higher court.
While not every case will move forward through the criminal justice system, MDT members work hard to achieve the best outcome, keeping your child’s well-being a priority.