Court Information

As a victim or witness to a crime, your assistance is vital to our system of criminal justice.

The following information will explain what happens when a case goes through the criminal justice system. You may be asked to testify at a preliminary hearing, motion hearing, or at the trial. The prosecution of a crime involves several steps, the most typical of which are:

First Appearance

The first step in the court process is a first appearance. At this hearing a defendant is appointed an attorney if the defendant cannot afford one. A preliminary hearing date is set.

Preliminary Hearing

In felony cases, the prosecution must present evidence to show probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed the crime. If the judge finds there is probable cause, the defendant is "bound over" to District Court for arraignment and trial. If probable cause is not found, the case will be dismissed.


The defendant appears before a judge and the defendant is advised of their right to have a trial by a judge or a jury. A plea to the charges is entered. Incarceration of the defendant is also considered. Witnesses are not normally required at the arraignment.

Motion Hearing

A motion is a procedure whereby the prosecutor or defense attorney asks the judge to rule on some aspect of the case. At a motion hearing, the defense and prosecution can present arguments for or against the motion, and the judge will rule for one side or the other.


The trial is the point at which the defendant's guilt or innocence will be determined by either a judge or a jury. Trials can last part of a day or several days, depending on the amount of the evidence and the number of witnesses required to present the case.


At sentencing, the judge tells a defendant that has been convicted, or who has pled guilty, what their punishment will be. The punishment may be prison, probation, treatment, and/or restitution. The court has the discretion to order the defendant to pay the victims for their losses. This restitution may be ordered for property damage, loss of property, medical or psychological expenses, and/or burial expenses.



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