Criminal Justice Process For Victims

1. A Crime Occurs

  • The suspect is arrested.
  • Reports are sent to District Attorney's office for review.

2. From Charges to Court

  • The District Attorney may charge the suspect with a crime(s). Not every report leads to a criminal charge.
  • If arrested, the suspect is held in jail until the Initial Hearing/Arraignment. They may be released after the initial hearing.

3. Initial Hearing/Arraignment

  • The initial hearing/arraignment must occur within 48 hours of a suspect’s arrest. This is the first time before a judge, and they are advised of the charges against them.
  • A Defendant may be appointed an attorney or get time to find one.
  • The defendant may enter a plea.
  • If the defendant enters a “Not-Guilty” plea, the case goes to trial.
  • If the defendant is in jail, the court can release them or hold them until the trial date.

4. Pre-Trial

  • A preliminary hearing is where the judge decides if there is sufficient “probable cause” to go to trial.
  • Probable cause means there is a reasonable belief that a crime has been committed.
  • Pre-trial hearings are held to confirm that both sides are ready to move forward. There may be many.

5. Parts of a Jury Trial

  • Jury Selection: when the jury is selected.
  • Opening Statements: statements by both sides before evidence is presented.
  • Presentation of Evidence and Testimony: both sides have the option to present evidence and question witnesses.
  • Closing Argument: statements by both sides after all evidence is presented.
  • Jury Deliberations: the jury leaves the court room to discuss if the defendant is guilty.
  • Verdict: the announcement stating if the defendant is guilty.
  • Sentencing: The judge decides the sentence or punishment for the defendant. Victims have a right to be heard at sentencing and may prepare a Victim Impact Statement.

Crime Victim's Bill of Rights

  • The right to confer with the prosecution.
  • The right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse throughout the criminal justice system.
  • The right to be present at all proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present.
  • The right to be heard, when relevant, at all critical stages of the criminal justice process as defined by the General Assembly.
  • The right to be informed of all proceedings, and of the release, transfer, or escape of the accused or convicted person.
  • The right to a speedy trial or disposition and a prompt and final conclusion of the case after the conviction or sentence.
  • The right to restitution from the offender.
  • The right to be informed of each of the rights established for victims.

For more information or to apply for assistance:

West Tennessee Legal Services

Toll Free: 1-800-372-8346 ext. 1250

Fax: 731-423-2600


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