In the State of Kentucky, criminal offenses are divided into three categories: (i) violations, crimes where only a fine may be imposed; (ii) misdemeanors, which are crimes punishable by a term of jail of not more than twelve months; and (iii) felonies, which are crimes punishable by a term of imprisonment of at least one year.
If you are charged with committing a violation, it is not likely that you will be arrested or taken to jail, you will likely be given either a criminal citation or a criminal summons. Both will require that you to appear before the court on a certain day and time to answer the charge.
If you are arrested on a misdemeanor or felony you will be taken into custody and booked into the local jail. You will be interviewed by Pre-Trial Services who will collect information from you so the Judge can set your bail. Once your bond is set, it will be able to be posted at either the jail or courthouse so that you can be released from custody pending your next court appearance.
You will initially appear in District Court for arraignment on your charges. At the arraignment you will be asked if you plead guilty or not guilty to the charges brought against you. You or your attorney will also be able to argue for a reduced bond, if necessary. If you plead not guilty, the Judge will schedule your case for a pre-trial conference if you are only charged with misdemeanors or a violation, or, if you are charged with a felony, a preliminary hearing. If you plead guilty, the Judge will either sentence you that day or schedule a hearing at a later date for sentencing.
The pre-trial conference is an opportunity for you and your lawyer to discuss your case with the prosecutor prior to trial. The prosecutor will likely offer you a deal on a plea of guilty. If you accept this offer, the Judge will either sentence you at the pre-trial conference or set another date for sentencing. If your case cannot be resolved by agreement, the Judge may either set it for another pre-trial conference or for trial.
If you are charged with a felony, the District Court will conduct a preliminary hearing. If you are in custody the Court must hold your preliminary hearing within 10 days of your arraignment (or within 20 days if not in custody). At the preliminary hearing the Court will hear testimony from prosecution witnesses to determine whether or not there is probable cause to believe you have committed the felony crime. You will be able to question other witnesses and produce your own witnesses. If the Court does not find probable cause to believe you have committed the felony crime with which you were charged, the Court may dismiss one or more of the charges. If the Court finds probable cause you committed the crime, your case wil be transferred to the Circuit Court.
Only the Circuit Court has jurisdiction to resolve felony cases. If your case is transferred to Circuit Court, you will be re-arraigned. After arraignment your case will be set for another pre-trial conference to discuss your case with the prosecutor. If your case cannot be resolved at the pre-trial conference, the Judge will either set the case for another pre-trial conference or schedule a trial. If you decide to plea guilty, the Court will set a date for you to enter your guilty plea and a separate date for you to be sentenced.
The criminal process can be very frightening. The lawyers at Johnson Bearse have tried cases ranging from traffic infractions to capital murder from start to finish. Let us use our 105 years of experience to assist you.