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Stages of a Misdemeanor Offense Stages of a Felony Offense

Your case depending on the county, court and judge may differ from below, but this is simply guideline of the process so you’ll have a general idea of what to may expect for a case with misdemeanor charges.

MISDEMEANOR – An offense less serious than a felony, punishable up to a fine of $1,000.00 and/or a maximum of 12 months in jail.

IT MAY NOT BE MANDATORY for you to appear at your Arraignment (Please confirm with us).

Stages of a Misdemeanor Offense:

Arraignment – The First Court Appearance

After your arrest, booking, and initial bail phases of the criminal process, the first court appearance is called the arraignment. In a typical arraignment, a person charged with a crime is called before a criminal court Judge.

  • The Judge will read the criminal charge (s) against the person (now called the “defendant”)
  • The Judge will ask the defendant if he or she has an attorney, needs the time to hire an attorney or if determined to be indigent qualifies for the assistance of a court-appointed attorney;
  • The Judge will then ask the defendant how he or she answers, or “pleads to”, the criminal charges – “guilty,” or “not guilty.”
  • During the Arraignment the Judge may decide whether to change the bail amount or to release the defendant on his or her own recognizance - without having to post bail to be released (Note: This matter may be revisited even if addressed in a prior proceeding), and
  • The Judge will then set a date for future proceedings in the case, such as the pretrial date and a date for trial

Pre-Trial Conference

Covers any discovery of further evidence and potential opportunity of negotiations for a plea bargin.

Plea Bargins

The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through a “plea bargain”, usually well before the case reaches trial. In a plea bargain, the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest, often to a lesser charge than one for which the defendant could stand trial, in exchange for a more lenient sentence, and/or so that certain related charges are dismissed. For both the prosecutor and the defendant, the decision to enter into (or not enter into) a plea bargain may be based on the seriousness of the alleged crime, the strength of the evidence in the case, the defendants criminal history or lack thereof and the prospects of a guilty verdict at trial. Plea bargains are generally encouraged by the court system, and have become something of a necessity due to overburdened criminal court calendars.

For Misdemeanor Offenses that go to Trial


In a criminal trial, a jury listens and examines the evidence to decide whether, “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the defendant committed the crime (s) in question. In a trial the prosecution has the burden of proving to the judge or jury that the defendant committed the offense (s) in the hope of obtaining a “guilty” verdict and a conviction of the defendant. A trial also represents the defense’s chance to refute the prosecution’s evidence, and to offer its own in some cases. After both sides have presented their evidence and made their arguments, the jury considers as a group whether to find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the crime (s) charged. (Note: Although a trial is the most high profile phase of a criminal justice process, the vast majority of criminal cases are resolved well before trial - - through guilty or no contest pleas, plea bargains, or dismissal of charges.)


After a person is convicted of a crime, whether through a guilty plea, plea bargain, or jury verdict, the appropriate legal punishment is determined at the sentencing phase. A number of different kinds of punishment may be imposed on a convicted criminal defendant, including:

  • Fines
  • County jail (shorter-term)
  • Incarceration in prison (longer-term)
  • Probation; (with or without custody time)
  • Payment of restitution to the crime victim
  • Community service; Work alternative programs or graffiti removal
  • Drug and alcohol rehabilitation

For misdemeanors and infractions, sentencing often takes place immediately after conviction or when a defendant has pled guilty. In more complex criminal cases, such as those involving serious felonies, the sentencing judge usually receives input from the prosecutor, the defense and the probation department (which prepare recommendations in a “pre sentence investigation”).

The sentencing judge will also consider punishments and sentencing ranges identified in applicable criminal statutes, as well as a number of case-specific factors, including:

  • The defendant’s criminal history, or lack thereof
  • The nature of the crime, the manner in which it was committed, and the impact on victims, i.e. whether injuries resulted
  • The defendant’s personal, economic, and social circumstances and
  • Regret or remorse expressed by the defendant
  • If restitution has been paid
  • Attending treatment programs

Any item pertaining to action on your case will be discussed between you and your attorney.

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