Misdemeanors are less severe than felonies. They refer to minor offences committed against the public order, the health system and the public administration of the state. These include petty thefts, vandalism, minor assaults, menacing, and other violations of law. Here is an overview of what to expect for those charged with a misdemeanor.
- Initial Appearance/Arraignment
The purposes of your arraignment is to inform you about the nature of the charge(s) against you; to provide you with a copy of the complaint (if you do not already have one); to inform you of your constitutional rights; to advise you of the possible immigration consequences; to answer any questions you might have; to enter a plea to the charge(s); to schedule your next Court date (usually a pre-trial conference) if one is necessary; and to determine your release conditions.
Note: The law requires us to set off many cases for another court date in order to provide the Prosecutor’s Office enough time to obtain a motor vehicle record, to contact the alleged victim(s) and to obtain restitution information.
You deny the charge(s) against you and want the State to prove them. You should enter a Not Guilty plea if you are not sure what to do or if you want to think about it further, as this will keep your options open for a while. You can later decide to change your plea if you wish.
If you plead Not Guilty the Judge will give you a new Court date and time to appear (usually for a pre-trial conference with the Prosecuting Attorney). At that time, you may review the police report in the case and may try to resolve the case (enter into a plea agreement) with the Prosecuting Attorney.
Note: There is no penalty, and you will not receive a more severe sentence if you plead Not Guilty.
You admit every element of the charge(s) that the State accuses you of doing. You will have a conviction for the charge(s) and there will be a record of the conviction in this Court. Sentence will be imposed (you will receive a penalty).
You do not admit guilt but do not desire to contest the charge(s). If the Judge accepts your plea, you would be found guilty. You will have a conviction for the charge(s) and there will be a record of the conviction in this Court. Sentence will be imposed (you will receive a penalty).
If you plead Guilty or No Contest you give up your rights and the Judge will sentence you. The Judge will usually pronounce your sentence on the same day you enter your plea, if you consent to it, and the Judge finds no reason to delay the passing of the sentence.
You will not receive a less severe sentence simply because you plead Guilty or No Contest.
- Pre-Trial Conference
You should appear with your attorney, if you have one. If you do not attend the Pre-Trial Conference you will be in violation of a court order and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
The purpose of a Pre-Trial Conference is for you to meet with a Prosecutor to discuss your case. The Prosecutor will advise you of the sentence he/she intends to recommend in the event you are convicted. You will have the following choices:
- You can accept the plea agreement with the prosecutor and change your plea to Guilty or No Contest. You will receive a court date for a Change of Plea. At that time, you will be sentenced to the terms that you have agreed to in the plea agreement unless the Judge does not accept it. If this happens, you have a right to withdraw your change of plea.
- If you reject the plea agreement, a Court Trial will be set for your case.
- Court/Jury Trial
You will appear at the Court/Jury Trial with your attorney if you have one representing you. The Prosecutor will present the State’s case. You or your attorney will have the right to cross-examine each witness for the State. You may testify on your own behalf. If you do testify, you will be subject to cross-examination by the Prosecutor.
After both sides present their case, the Judge or jury will make a decision based on the evidence. If you are found Not Guilty, any bond that you have posted will be refunded. If you are found Guilty, you may be sentenced at that time or set for sentencing at a later date. If found Guilty, you have the right to appeal the conviction and/or sentence by filing a notice of appeal within fourteen (14) days from the sentencing date. The appeal is a review of the case. You would not automatically receive a new trial.
For a complete appeal packet and instructions: Criminal Appeal Packet