All cases for crimes committed within the 46th Circuit Trial Court's jurisdiction begin in either the District or Family Divisions, depending on the age of the defendant. Individuals under the age of 17 begin in the Family Division.
While judges handle all types of court activity in the District Division, magistrates are restricted to certain duties. Magistrates can issue arrest and search warrants, conduct arraignments, set bonds, and remand defendants to the County Jail. They can accept pleas on a limited number of offenses. They cannot conduct preliminary examinations, or conduct criminal trials.
The following explains what happens in the District Division after an arrest.
If charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense, you first appear in court for an arraignment. During your arraignment, the court advises you of the specific criminal charges being brought against you, advises you of your constitutional rights, and notifies you whether or not you are eligible to be released on bond, and the amount of the bond. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may ask the court to appoint one for you.
Arraignments Are Held in Front of a Magistrate or Judge
If you are arrested for a felony, your arraignment normally follows the day after your arrest. Felony arraignments are held before a judge or a magistrate who sets a date for a preliminary exam within 14 calendar days following arraignment. If you are eligible and able to post bond, then you are released to appear on your preliminary examination date. If you are not eligible for a bond or cannot post it, you are sent to the county jail until your examination date.
For individuals arrested and arraigned on misdemeanor violations, the pretrial examination is the next step of the legal process. You have the right to be represented by legal counsel at this hearing. If you signed an appointment of counsel form at or following your arraignment, an attorney appointed by the presiding judge or the criminal division will be present to represent you.
After your pretrial, your case can take one of two paths in the judicial process. If it is your intent to plead guilty or no contest, your plea will be accepted and the sentencing will follow.
If your intent is to go to trial, you will notify the judge whether you want a jury or bench trial. The judge will set a trial date.
If you are charged with a felony and at pretrial you indicate to the District Division Judge that you intend to go to trial, your case will be reassigned to a Circuit Division judge. If you plead guilty or no contest, the District Division judge will accept your plea and sentence accordingly.
If you are a juvenile, your criminal case is handled in the Family Division. You will be contacted by the clerk to appear before the Family Division judge or referee. The Family Division judge will determine the appropriate handling of your case, depending on the offense, and prior involvement with the judicial system.