The Criminal Process
- What Should I Do If I Am A Victim Of A Crime?
- What Should I Tell The Police?
- What Happens Next?
- How Does The State's Attorney's Office Decide Whether To File Charges?
- What If Charges Are Filed?
- When Will I Be Called To Appear As A Witness?
- Will There Always Be A Trial?
- Are All Trials In Front Of A Jury?
- What Happens After A Defendant Is Convicted At Trial Or Pleads Guilty?
1. What Should I Do If I Am A Victim Of A Crime?
Report the crime as soon as possible to the law enforcement agency that serves the geographical area where the crime is committed.
If the crime is committed in:
- Jerseyville - report to Jerseyville Police Department - 618.498.2131
- Grafton - report to Grafton Police Department - 618.786.3354
- Brighton - report to Brighton Police Department - 618.372.4207
- All other areas of Jersey County - report to Jersey County Sheriff's Department - 618.498.5571 Ext. 137
2. What Should I Tell The Police?
Tell the police what happened, the date, time, place, who was involved, names and addresses of possible witnesses, a description of the offender. Be prepared to offer information on your injuries or property loss. Cooperate with police - they cannot help you if you do not give them proper and necessary information.
3. What Happens Next?
If the criminal offender is apprehended or his whereabouts are determined, the police will make an arrest or submit their report to the State's Attorney's Office for review and consideration.
4. How Does The State's Attorney's Office Decide Whether To File Charges?
The State's Attorney's Office has complete and sole discretion in the charging process. The State's Attorney reviews police reports to determine if a criminal offense has been committed and to determine if the crime can be proven in court. There must be substantial evidence before the State's Attorney's Office will subject someone to criminal prosecution. There must be enough provable evidence to convict the accused.
Many times there is no question the law has been violated, but charges are not filed because proof or evidence is lacking. The State's Attorney will work with police and crime victims to assure that a complete investigation has been done. If there is still insufficient evidence or proof, the charge cannot be filed and the State's Attorney's Office will notify the victim and police that it has made an election or decision not to prosecute. This closes the case unless new information is received.
5. What If Charges Are Filed?
If the accused is arrested and charges are filed, he or she will soon appear in court. The judge will set bond and advise the accused, known as the defendant, of the charges against him or her. The defendant will be advised of their constitutional rights. In misdemeanors, the case will be continued for trial. In felony cases, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled.
Victims will be notified of the charges being filed and what has happened in court by the State's Attorney's Office. Victims and witnesses need not be present at the first appearance. Most defendants do post bond and are released from custody pending their trial.
6. When Will I Be Called To Appear As A Witness?
In misdemeanors, the victims and witnesses normally need only appear in court at the trial. In felony cases, the victim will often be called to testify at the preliminary hearing.
The preliminary hearing is held in front of the judge sitting without a jury. If probable cause is established, the case proceeds to trial; if no probable cause if found, the case is dismissed.
Victims and witnesses are sometimes called upon to testify in cases where pretrial motions are filed. These motions usually deal with technical legal issues.
7. Will There Always Be A Trial?
No, in many cases the defendant decides to plead guilty and no trial is held. However, victims and witnesses may sometimes be called upon to testify about the crime at a sentencing hearing in front of a judge sitting without a jury.
8. Are All Trials In Front Of A Jury?
No, a defendant has a choice between having a trial by jury or a bench trial. A bench trial is when the case is before only a judge sitting without a jury.
9. What Happens After A Defendant Is Convicted At Trial Or Pleads Guilty?
Once convicted, the defendant is required to be sentenced. Sentencing the defendant is the responsibility of the judge. A judge has many alternatives in determining a just and proper sentence. Usually the judge will ask the prosecutor and the defendant's attorney for recommendations, but the judge decides the final sentence. Many times in very serious cases, the judge will order the probation department to prepare a report known as a pre-sentence investigation report. This report is used to provide background about the defendant. The probation officer will contact the victim in the case to gather information for the report.