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Criminal Case Basics

A criminal court case starts with the government charging the person it believes committed a crime. This person is called the defendant. The lawyer who works for the government is called the prosecutor. Every criminal case is different. The information on this website is not a substitute for an attorney. A defendant can represent him or herself in a criminal case, but it is not recommended.

Types of Criminal Cases
Learn about violations, misdemeanors and felonies.

Basic Steps in a Criminal Case
Read an overview of the basic criminal case from arraignment to sentencing.

Arraignment
Read about what happens the first time you go in front of a Judge.

Preliminary Hearing and Grand Jury
After an arraignment in a felony case, your case goes before a grand jury and may have a preliminary hearing.

Bail
Find out about posting bail, getting help with bail from a bail bondsperson, getting bail money back and applying bail to pay fines and fees.

Plea Bargaining
The prosecutor and your lawyer can talk about settling the case without a trial. Read what is important to know.

Pre-trial
Learn what happens after arraignment and before trial. Read a summary of common suppression hearings.

Trial
Read a brief overview of what happens at trial from jury to verdict.

Sentencing Basics
After a guilty plea or verdict, the defendant gets his or her punishment from the Judge at sentencing. Learn about how the Judge decides the punishment. Read about common types of sentences.

Types of Criminal Courts
There are many different courts that handle criminal cases. See a chart that shows how the criminal courts are set-up. Find links to Problem Solving Courts for specific types of cases.

Crimes Committed by Children
Crimes committed by children under 19 can fall into three categories: juvenile delinquents, juvenile offenders and youthful offenders. Learn the differences.

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