Misdemeanor Criminal Case Process

How the Process Begins

Crime Observed by Police
If a misdemeanor is committed in the presence of an officer, the officer can cite the individual or make an arrest at the scene without a warrant depending on the severity of the crime.

Crime Reported to Police
If a crime is reported by a citizen, a law enforcement officer is assigned by his agency to begin an investigation. The officer will then submit a report to the County Attorney's Office. The report will be screened by the County Attorney or one of his deputies. If enough evidence exists to file charges, the County Attorney's Office will file an Information with the Justice Court, charging the defendant with the crime.

Bail/Criminal Summons

If a defendant has been arrested and put in jail, he or she can "bail" out of jail after signing a promise to appear in Court at a specific time on a specific day.

If a defendant has not been arrested and the County Attorney has filed charges, the County Attorney will also file a Criminal Summons with the Court and serve the Summons on the defendant. The Summons orders the defendant to appear in Court at a specific time on a specific day.

Court Appearances


A defendant's first Justice Court hearing is called an Arraignment. At this hearing the Court explains the charges filed against the defendant, addresses the issue of bail, and determines whether the defendant is going to hire his or her own attorney or if the defendant qualifies for a public defender to represent the defendant. After the Judge has explained the charges, the defendant pleads "guilty" or "not guily." If the defendant pleads "guilty," the judge either sentences the defendant at that time (if the defendant waives the right to be sentenced not less than two nor more than 45 days after pleading guilty) or the judge schedules a sentencing hearing. If the defendant pleads "not guily," the judge will set the case for trial.

Suppression Hearing

If the defendant believes that certain evidence ought to be suppressed, he or she may request a Suppression Hearing. In a Suppression Hearing the State puts on its evidence through the state's witnesses. The defense may or may not put on evidence. The defense attorney will usually write a memorandum, called a Motion to Suppress, in which the defense attorney will explain why the defendant believes evidence should be suppressed. The County Attorney will have a period of time to respond with his own Memorandum. The Court will then make a decision based on the evidence and arguments brought out in the Suppression Hearing and the Motions and Memoranda from both sides.

Pretrial Conference(s)

During pretrial conferences, the County Attorney, defence attorney, defendant, and judge discuss any pretrial issues that need to be addressed prior to trial.


The Trial is where the prosecution is required to prove the defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." Unless a defendant requests a jury trial, most Justice Court trails are bench trials. At a "bench trial" the judge acts without a jury and decides, based on the evidence, whether a defendant is guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt" or not. At a jury trial, the judge presides and makes decisions about the admissibility of evidence. The judge also instructs the jury about the law they must apply in making their decision about whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. If a defendant is found "not guilty" he or she is free to go and the criminal justice process ends. If a defendant is found "guilty," the judge sentences teh defendant or schedules a "Sentencing Hearing."


In misdemeanor cases, the Judge usually sentences a defendant when the defendant pleads guilty or when the Judge or jury find the defendant guily. The defendant can request that sentencing be scheduled for another day (not less than two nor more than 45 days after pleading guilty or being found guilty). In that case, the Judge would set a sentencing hearing for another day

Victims have the right to be heard at the sentencing hearing. The defense attorney may or may not make arguments in the defendant's behalf. The prosecution may or may not make arguments as well. After hearing from the parties, the judge sentences the defendant.

At sentencing, defendants are usually ordered to pay fines and fees and may be sentenced to serve time in jail. The type of crime committed determines the amount of the fine and the jail time. Justice Courts can sentence defendantants to up to six months in the county jail. Defendants may be required to pay restitution to victims, get alcohol and/or substance abuse evaluation and treatment, anger management counseling, and comply with other conditions that the judge imposes as part of the sentence.

Probation and Order to Show Cause Hearings

The Judge may also order probation. If a defendant is sentenced to probation, he or she is required to follow the terms of probation ordered by the court. Such orders may include such things as refraining from contacting the victim, refraining from drinking alcohol, paying restitution, etc. If a defendant fails to obey the terms of probation, he or she can be brought back to court for an "Order to Show Cause" hearing where the defendant has to explain why he or she has not complied with the terms of probation. The judge can impose more conditions and/or give the defendant jail time for failing to comply with the conditions of probation.

Felony Case

Felony Case
Flow Chart

Misdemeanor Case

Misdemeanor Case
Flow Chart

Juvenile Court Information