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From the time the crime is committed and reported, an investigation usually occurs and depending upon the outcome of the investigation one or more arrests may be made with regard to the offense.
Once an arrest is made, there is an administrative procedure or booking that occurs which includes records information pertaining to the defendant, such as name, the crime being charged and taking the defendant's fingerprints and photograph. The defendant is then taken into a courtroom setting within a specified time allowed by statute and an arraignment occurs. This is where the defendant is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.
By this time, the defendant has usually consulted with his/her criminal defense attorney, who also appears at this hearing in front of the judge. It is at this hearing that the amount of bail, if any, is also determined.
The next legal procedure is the preliminary hearing, which is the occasion for the criminal court judge to hear the evidence and decide based upon the presentation by the state or the government, whether there is sufficient evidence for the defendant to be bound over for trial. Should the trial judge agree with the prosecution that there is enough evidence for their case to be presented to a jury, and then a trial is scheduled. This is the step in the process wherein the prosecution and defense attorneys will present their respective cases to the jury and allow the jury to bring a verdict or decision to the matter.
If the defendant is found not guilty, the prosecution may petition the court for a new trial, which may or may not be granted. Should the defendant be found guilty, the defendant, too, may petition the court for a new trial.
When the issue of guilt or innocence has been finally determined, then the trial goes into the sentencing phase, where the judge or jury has criminal law sentencing guidelines to follow. Either side may finally appeal any decision reached by the judge or jury based upon points of law or alleged misconduct.