Although every state has its own distinctive process for handling offenses committed by adults, the overall sequence of events rarely changes from one area of the country to another. It should be noted that while the criminal laws of MT are exclusive to the state, they have to be in conformance with federal statutes. So, here is a look at how the state law enforcement, prosecution and judiciary handle criminal offenses.
What starts the criminal process?
There is much ambiguity about what marks the beginning of the state’s criminal initiative. Some say that as soon as arrests are made, the state starts is prosecution process while others are of the opinion the point at which an active warrant from MT is issued is when the criminal procedure actually begins. The second opinion is logically more valid as many times, after being detained, the arrestee may be released for lack of evidence or simply told to walk with a citation in hand.
In contrast, the issue of arrest warrants is governed by the courts. Hence, the subsequent release of the accused will also involve the tribunal. Also, before an active warrant is sanctioned, the judiciary will consider all the evidence available in the case up to that point; of course, more can be added later.
However, the magistrate will ascertain that the proof establishes a clear link between the criminal and the offense. This simply goes to show that the judiciary already starts thinking in terms of the trial when sanctioning arrest warrants. So, this can rightly be termed as the start of offender processing.
Midway through the criminal process!
Arrests have to be effected for things to proceed; as explained earlier, these can be made on the basis of an outstanding warrant or without it. Once detained, the accused will typically be presented before the magistrate within 48 hours. If the crime is a misdemeanor, the entering of the plea and the bail will be handled at the very first appearance.
In contrast, for felony trials, the preliminary appearance will just involve the magistrate explaining the right of the accused and the charges filed to the defendant. The bail may or may not be addressed at this stage. The arraignment is held next where the defendant agrees or disagrees with the charges levied by the state against him by entering one of the three pleas; guilty, not guilty or no contest.
After the preliminary processes have been concluded and lawyers from both sides have held a tête-à-tête, the plea bargain will probably be put on the table. This is the prosecution’s attempt to get the matter sorted out without actually going to trial. Of course, the defense has to agree to plead guilty or no contest in return for lower charges and sentence. If the judge agrees to this deal, the matter goes to sentencing; if not, it is bounded over for trial.
During the trial and after!
Criminal trials have been painstakingly covered in most TV shows involving lawyers. As they depict, this phase involves the presentation of evidence and witness testimony and both sides are given a fair chance to challenge the material brought in by the opposing lawyers. At the end of the arguments, the jury is given the conclusion of the defense and the prosecution. While the jurors decide the verdict, the sentencing is the forte of the judge.