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Felony - Court Procedures -

       Felonies start out similar to misdemeanors, The original charging document is generally called a Complaint with one significant alternative explained below. The difference is that there is an allegation that the defendant committed a felony, which can be punished by imprisonment in the state prison. The same general rights are read to the defendant at his or her arraignment. However, in addition to the rights for a misdemeanor, the felony has an added stage: the preliminary hearing.

Preliminary Hearing

       The preliminary hearing is a hearing held before a magistrate without a jury to determine whether there is slight cause to believe the defendant committed a crime.This is considerably different than the burden of proof at a trial. Also, some types of hearsay are permitted at the preliminary hearing.

       If the matter is not resolved up to and including the preliminary hearing, then the defendant will be arraigned on the Information in the Superior Court, Unlimited Jurisdiction.


       At the arraignment, the defendant will be advised of the felony charges, their right to an attorney, and their speedy trial right, and asked for entry of plea: guilty, not guilty or no contest.

Jury Trial

       A defendant has a right to a jury trial within 60 days of the date of their arraignment. The trial is similar to the misdemeanor trial with the same prosecutor and the burden of proof is also beyond a reasonable doubt. There is one alternative to charging a felony in a Complaint. The District Attorney has the option to proceed by way of Grand Jury.

Grand Jury

       Each county in the state has its own Grand Jury. The Grand Jury must be composed of at least 11, 19 or 23 people, depending on the population of the county, chosen from the community. The District Attorney will present an "Indictment" to the Grand Jury, which is an accusation in writing charging one or more persons with a crime. It requires 2/3 to return an Indictment. The Grand Jury Indictment is a way around the preliminary hearing. Thus, the Indictment is filed in place of the Information with the Superior Court, Unlimited Jurisdiction.

- Written by , Attorney at Law





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