From the Desk of Sheriff Bobby J. Guidroz
PART III OF III
Finally! You’ve been granted bail by the judge and it is now time for you to go home. Being arrested is more than just going to jail. We will now walk through the judicial process as set forth in the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedures.
After an arrest is made by a law enforcement agency for a crime, the arrest file is sent to the District Attorney’s Office by the arresting agency. Upon receipt of the file, the District Attorney will assign the file to an individual prosecutor who will be responsible for the duration of judicial proceedings. The prosecutor will review the file and make a determination whether a crime has occurred and whether sufficient evidence exists to proceed to trial. Most crimes are charged by the prosecutor by filing a “bill of information” with the Clerk of Court.
According to the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedures, Article 701, both the state and the accused have the right to a speedy trial. When the accused is in continued custody after being arrested and incarcerated, an indictment or information shall be filed within forty-five days of the arrest if the accused is being held for a misdemeanor charge. If the accused is being held for a felony, an indictment or information shall be filed within sixty days of the arrest.
Upon filing of a bill of information or indictment, the district attorney shall set the matter for arraignment within thirty days unless just cause for a longer delay is shown.
However, certain crimes must be brought by the prosecutor to the Grand Jury for being formally charged by an “indictment.” Examples of these crimes are those that are punishable by death or by life imprisonment.
Once the indictment or bill of information has been allotted by the Clerk of Court to the proper section of criminal court, an “arraignment” date is set. Following “arraignment,” most misdemeanor charges will be assigned a trial date. A misdemeanor is a crime that can not result in a sentence of imprisonment at hard labor.
Most felony cases will be assigned a motion date. A felony is a crime that can result in a sentence of imprisonment at hard labor. On the motion day, the accused normally has the right to a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, a judge must decide whether the state has met its burden of probable cause that a crime has been committed. The state meets this burden by having some of its witnesses appear and testify. In addition, at this motion date the accused may be entitled to obtain evidence and information about the state’s case. Following the hearing of motions, the case will generally be assigned for trial. The state’s witnesses are summoned for motions and for trial by a court ordered subpoena brought to their home or work address by the Sheriff.
Additionally, in both misdemeanor and felony cases, there is a need for a status date. On the status date, the prosecutors and defense attorneys meet with the judge and “iron out” any outstanding issues before trial.
On the date of trial, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney must present their case to the court, which may involve trial before a judge (for misdemeanors) or a jury (for felonies). At trial, the judge or jury determines the facts from the evidence presented by witnesses.
The judge or jury will decide whether the accused is “guilty” or “not guilty.” If the accused is found “guilty,” the judge will sentence the accused within the sentencing ranges established by law, after considering the circumstances of the crime and other factors such as the accused’s criminal record. If the accused is found “not guilty”, the accused is freed from the criminal justice system and the state can no longer prosecute him for the crime charged.
The above information is intended for information purposes only and not for legal advice. For legal advice, consult an attorney. Questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org