ARREST WARRANTS: A warrant is the document only issued by a judge that gives the police the authority to arrest the accused. Victims may be required to obtain a copy of the police report and go to the County Courthouse to begin warrant procedures before a judge.
Usually, within seventy-two hours after the accused is arrested, the individual is arraigned - meaning his/her bond may be set and a preliminary hearing date is scheduled.
For certain misdemeanor crimes, the accused may be released on his/her recognizance before being put in jail. If the accused is booked in jail and is able to pay bond (bail), he/she will be released. Victims can call the jail at 912-652-7734 and give their name and phone number(s) and request to be notified when the accused is released.
PRELIMINARY HEARINGS: Within one to three weeks after an arraignment, a preliminary hearing is held for defendants who are in custody. Witnesses are usually subpoenaed to appear at the preliminary hearing. During the hearing, the judge listens to testimony to decide if there is probable cause for the case to be "bound over" to a higher court.
If the Judge finds there is probable cause for the case to go to a higher court, misdemeanors (less serious offenses) are sent to State Court and felonies (more serious crimes) are sent to Superior Court.
GRAND JURY: After the preliminary hearing, the case is assigned to an assistant district attorney (ADA) and the next step is filing of formal charges either by accusation by the District Attorney's Office or by indictment by the Grand Jury. At the Grand Jury hearing, twenty-three grand jurors hear testimony from any witnesses the ADA subpoenas to decide if there is enough evidence to indict the defendant. This hearing is held in private and neither the defendant nor defense attorney is present.
CALENDAR CALL: If the Grand Jury indicts the defendant or the defendant is formally charged by the District Attorney's Office, the next step is a Calendar Call. At this hearing, the defendant or his/her attorney appears before the judge and indicates whether he/she plans to plead guilty or ask for a jury trial. No witnesses are subpoenaed for this hearing. The defendant may plead guilty at this time.
PLEA: The defendant may also choose a plea hearing. If the defendant pleads guilty to the charge, the judge may sentence the defendant then or at a later date. Witnesses are not subpoenaed to the plea hearing, but may attend.
PRETRIAL CONFERENCE: If the defendant pleads not guilty and requests a jury trial, a pre-trial conference is usually the final hearing before the trial. At the pretrial conference, the attorneys (ADA and defense attorneys) appear before the Judge to review any legal questions or motions to be filed and to agree on a tentative trial date.
JURY TRIAL: A jury of twelve citizens listens to testimony and determines whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. All twelve must agree the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for there to be a conviction. Witnesses are subpoenaed to jury trials. The Judge may sentence immediately after conviction or may order a PSI (pre-sentence investigation).
COURT DATES: Victims will receive letters on the status of their case and can also call Victim-Witness at 912-652-7329.
YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION: Please notify Victim-Witness Assistance of any change in your phone numbers and address to ensure that you can be contacted on the status of your case.