Before a judge or jury decides your future, you will make several appearances in court. Every appearance is critical because it may affect the outcome of your case. It’s important to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney before you enter the courtroom for the first time.

The Court System

The Connecticut Superior Court handles all criminal cases in the state. The court system is divided into 13 judicial districts with 20 geographical areas. Judicial courts hear the most serious cases such as Class A felonies and other crimes subject to a prison term in excess of 20 years.

A geographical area court will handle your case if it’s a Class B, C, or D felony, an unclassified felony subject to imprisonment of fewer than 20 years, or a minor crime.

Arraignment

Your arraignment is your initial court appearance. Regardless of which court will ultimately oversee your case, a geographical area court will likely handle your arraignment. It’s a brief formal hearing where a judge addresses several issues.

  • Reaffirms your Miranda rights
  • Gives you an opportunity to request a court-appointed attorney
  • Explains victims’ rights to any victims present
  • Reads the charges against you
  • Gives you a chance to plead guilty, not guilty, etc.
  • Decides whether or not to release you on bail
  • Establishes bail/bond requirements
  • Schedules your pre-trial

If you fail to show up at your arraignment, the court may charge you with an additional crime. Victims do not participate in the hearing but they have a right to be present.

Pretrial

A pretrial gives all relevant parties a chance to review the issues and consider alternative solutions. The initial pretrial usually takes place on the date scheduled by the court. If your attorney seeks to resolve your charges before trial, the court may follow up with subsequent pretrials to discuss and negotiate the details. Under certain circumstances, criminal charges can be resolved at a pretrial.

  • Dismissal: The State’s Attorney drops the case as they don’t have enough evidence or they decide you aren’t guilty.
  • Nolle:The court needs more time to develop the case against you, so the State’s Attorney suspends prosecution with a nolle (from the Latin term which means refuse to pursue.) If the court doesn’t reopen your case within 13 months, it goes away permanently.
  • Plea Agreement: The court agrees to resolve your case by accepting a guilty plea to a lesser charge.
  • Diversion:The court dismisses your case in exchange for your participation in counseling, drug rehabilitation, or another court-sanctioned diversion program.

Plea Hearing or Trial

If you agree to a plea deal, the judge will review the terms and approve the arrangement in court instead of holding a trial. If you don’t resolve your case, your trial will begin your final series of court appearances.

Depending on the complications of your case, your trial could last days, weeks, or longer. If you agreed to a bench trial, the judge hears the case and makes a decision.

If you decided on a jury trial, the prosecutor and your defense attorney must first select a jury. They use a “voir dire” process that allows them to reject jurors they don’t like. Once the jury is in place, the state and defense attorneys present their evidence.

After both sides finish presenting their cases, the judge instructs the jury on the points of law applicable to the case. The jury deliberates and issues a verdict.

Sentencing

The judge sentences you immediately if you plead guilty or the court finds you guilty of a misdemeanor. For more serious crimes, the court may conduct a sentencing investigation and hearing. Victims may provide impact statements hoping to influence the sentence.

Contact Sadler Law Group

The court system can be complicated and frustrating. If you’ve been charged with a crime, our experienced criminal attorneys protect your rights and provide advice before, during, and after each court appearance.

Contact Sadler Law Group at (855) 285-3425 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.

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