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The Criminal Court Process
A subpoena or “summons” is a court document requiring the victim or witness to be present at the time and place stated.

Felony Case – a major crime with punishment of one year or more in jail or prison, usually tried in Circuit Court.

  • A preliminary hearing is typically held within 30-60 days after the arrest.
  • You must appear in person for the hearing if you are subpoenaed.
  • If the judge finds probable cause, the case goes to the Grand Jury.
    • Grand Jury: a panel of citizens who hears only the evidence put on by the Commonwealth’s Attorney.  The grand jury then determines if the evidence is sufficient to indict the defendant.  If so, the case is set for trial in Circuit Court. 
  • If the defendant is indicted by the Grand Jury, the case goes to trial where you may be subpoenaed to appear in court.
  • The defendant may be acquitted or convicted.  At times, charges are nolle prossed.
    • Nolle prossed: when a charge is dropped, but later can be reinstated if necessary.
  • Sentencing follows a guilty conviction.  You may attend the sentencing.

Misdemeanor Case – less serious crimes that are punishable up to 12 months in jail, a fine of not more than $2,500 or both.

  • Misdemeanor cases are held in General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
  • You must appear in person for the trial if you are subpoenaed.

Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court handles criminal and traffic violations committed by juveniles and crimes against one’s own family or household member.