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.
- 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
To download a copy of this brochure, please click here.
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