In every state justice system, several procedures are followed after a suspect is arrested, interrogated, and then finally charged with a crime. The process begins after a claimant files a formal written complaint. The prosecuting attorney then obtains an arrest warrant from the judge and issues it to the local police for the suspect’s arrest.
The prosecuting attorneys in St. Louis litigate crimes committed against the residents of the county. These attorneys must prove beyond reasonable doubt that a suspect committed an alleged crime. In St. Louise, the following procedures follow an arrest for a felony charge:
The preliminary hearing for felony cases
Most felony cases begin with a preliminary hearing unless the defendant decides to waive the hearing. The testimony in this hearing is taken under oath in the presence of the judge, the prosecutor, witnesses, and the defendant’s attorney.
During the hearing, the prosecutor presents the evidence of the alleged crime. The defendant’s lawyer may also produce evidence showing that the defendant did not commit the crime. If the court establishes probable cause, the case is forwarded for trial in the circuit court. If there is not enough proof, the court may release the defendant.
The grand jury hearing
A grand jury is an alternative to the preliminary hearing. The jury comprises a panel of 12 grand jurors whose primary role is to determine whether the prosecutor should pursue the charges. The grand jury does not, however, decide the innocence or guilt of a person at trial.
For the charges to be brought forward, nine jurors out of the 12 must indict the defendant. The grand jury is held behind closed doors, and in most cases, the defendants are not present during the hearing.
The arraignment is usually open to the public. During the arraignment, the court presents the charges to the defendant, who either pleads guilty or not guilty. If the suspect does not make a plea, the judge pleads not guilty on their behalf. The court then sets the trial dates or hearing dates.
The trial and sentencing
During the trial, all evidence from both parties is presented to the jury. The jurors then make a unanimous agreement on whether the defendant is guilty or not. The court may jail, imprison or put the defendant on probation if found guilty after the defense has presented all the evidence.
If the suspect is not found guilty, they are released, and the court is barred from retrying them on the same charge. If the court discovers that the suspect has been convicted before, the judge may impose a sentence without passing the trial to the jury.
Every felony charge must follow a set of procedures to determine the guilt or innocence of the charged individual. These practices are set in place to maintain thorough and fair processing of any felony charge.