The timeline of a felony begin starts with the Bond Hearing and moving toward the preliminary hearing, arraignment, and pretrial motion.
After a bond hearing we will assume a Defendant can make bail. The case will then be set for a preliminary hearing or a Defendant will be indicted by a grand jury. A common saying is that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich. I have never seen them not indict a case, though I have heard of it. A grand jury is 16-23 people and this is an ex parte proceeding and it is more of an informal proceeding. There are only see State’s Attorney and cops. There isn’t a Defendant or counsel. There are also no rules of evidence and 93-99% are accepted.
After a preliminary hearing, assuming the State has shown probable cause for an arrest, felony information is issued by a Judge. A preliminary hearing is an adversarial proceeding where witnesses are brought in and can be cross examined to a limited extent by defense counsel. Many times it is a good chance to preview the State’s case and to stick a witness to their sworn testimony.
After a preliminary hearing there is an arraignment. At the arraignment, indictment/information is formally filed by the State in open Court. These are the formal charging papers. Meaning that a person can know precisely what they are being charged with and what the basic facts are. The Indictment/Information will be signed by the foreman of the grand jury or the Assistant State’s Attorney. It is also at arraignment where an offender is told their basic rights and can have their charges formally read aloud.
This is the first time the offender is actually asked whether they plead guilty or not guilty to the felony by a Judge. Everything before this moment has been a process where the state must show they have enough evidence to proceed. As a matter of common practice, everyone pleads “Not Guilty,” at Arraignment even if they intend to negotiate a guilty plea at a later time.
Depending on the nature of the case, there may be one or several pretrial motions. Simply put, a motion is a request made to the Judge. So a Motion to dismiss is a request to dismiss the case. Some other motions may include the following
- Motions for a bill of particulars, requesting more detail than what has already been provided in the indictment/information.
- Motion for a new Judge, because the Defendant gets one as a matter of right before a certain amount of time has passed.
- Motion for change of venue to request a new location for trial
- Motion to Quash Arrest and Suppress Evidence, Usually requesting dismissal of the charge(or case) based on a improper search or seizure under the 4th Amendment.
- Motion to suppress Statements, based on the a bad confession under the 5th Amendment
And anything else a creative attorney can think of. There are scores of other motions that may come up. In many of my cases, the pretrial motion will determine the entire case. Meaning if we lose that, there is no real purpose to go to trial. However, sometimes the best course of action is to get to the heart of the matter and try the case.
The next entry will begin with trials. The series will conclude with post-conviction matters.