Shawnee County District Attorney

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What to Expect in Court

Each court proceeding is a little bit different and serves a different judicial purpose. The following is a description of each proceeding.

First Appearance

A court hearing where the offender is first notified of his or her rights and the charges filed against them. The terms of their possible pre-trial release are set. This normally occurs the first business day after an offender is arrested. The judge will set a bond amount, determine if the offender qualifies for a court appointed attorney, and usually order no contact between the offender and the victim.

Criminal Assignment Docket

Criminal Assignment Docket is a scheduling conference in which no evidence is presented. It is a brief open court meeting in which the parties involved set the corresponding future court dates of the case in matter.

Show Cause

An order by the court requiring a party to appear and explain why the court should not take action on a matter.

Restitution Hearing

A restitution hearing is a hearing that is held if the offender or victim challenges the amount of restitution ordered by the judge or the validity of the expenses submitted by the victims. It can also be held to determine if restitution is owed, and if so, how much is owed. Restitution is a monetary payment sometimes ordered to be made as part of a judgment in negligence and/or contracts cases to restore a loss. A restitution hearing can be requested by either the defendant or the victim. The victims requesting restitution may be called to court to document their expenses with copies of bills, receipts or other confirmation of loss.

Pre-Trial

After the preliminary hearing and before a criminal case goes to trial, the prosecutor and the defense team usually appear before a criminal court judge and make pre-trial motions such as arguments that certain evidence should be kept out of the trial, that certain persons cannot testify, or that the case should be dismissed altogether.

Motion Hearing

A Motion Hearing is a request asking the judge to issue a ruling or order on a legal matter. Once the judge receives a motion, he or she can grant or deny the motion based on its contents. In the alternative, the judge can also schedule a hearing. At a motion hearing, each party can argue its position and the judge can ask specific questions about the fact or law. After the hearing the judge decides the motion and this is called an order. However, during a trial or hearing, an oral motion may also be permitted.

Preliminary Hearing

The preliminary hearing is not a trial. It is a hearing in court at which witnesses testify and the judge decides if there is enough evidence to require the defendant to stand trial. The jury is not present; the judge alone makes the decision.

Bench Trial

Also called court trial. A bench trial is another term for a trial before a judge only without a jury. In general, the parties begin with the presentation of evidence, although in some cases they make opening statements. After the plaintiff finishes presenting his evidence, the defendant presents her case. After the defendant concludes her presentation, the plaintiff may rebut the defendant's case. Rarely are closing arguments made. The judge may rule immediately, but more often takes anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks to consider the evidence and reach a decision.

Jury Trial

A civil or criminal trial in which a jury decides any disputed issues of fact. The number of jurors is usually 12 in a criminal trial; the number varies from state to state in a civil trial. In a jury trial, the jury is selected by the parties through a process called voir dire, where the judge or parties ask jurors questions in order to determine their biases and opinions. (Each side gets to reject a certain number of potential jurors.) After the jury is chosen and sworn in, the parties give opening arguments, present their evidence and give closing arguments. The jury then deliberates; when it reaches a decision, it returns to the courtroom and announces the verdict.

Sentencing

Usually the last part of the criminal process and the opportunity for victims of crimes to speak up and inform the judge, directly, of how the crimes committed have affected their lives. This hearing is done in an open court in front of the judge and both parties involved. During sentencing restitution is also regularly determined.