Arkansas State Seal

The Process of a Criminal Case

When a crime is committed, it follows a path from discovery to justice. Here are the steps involved:

  1. A Crime is Committed and Reported – An officer witnesses a crime, or a citizen files a formal complaint or calls 911.
  2. Investigation and Arrest – After a crime has been reported, law enforcement investigates and gathers evidence. After a suspect has been determined, the suspect is arrested.
  3. Booking – Booking is the process of making a record of an arrestee’s personal information and the offense charged, photographed and fingerprinted. Usually the arrestee can post bail and obtain immediate release unless it is a more serious offense, they have a history of failing to appear in court, or they are a flight risk.
  4. Arraignment - Arraignment is the arrestee’s first court appearance where the judge informs the defendant of the charge and explains to the defendant his right to a public defender if he cannot afford an attorney. The judge then makes a determination regarding pretrial release and the defendant pleads guilty, not guilty or no contest.
  5. Formal Charges – The Thirteenth Judicial District Office of Arkansas initiates the filing of the “Information,” which is the formal charges against the defendant.
  6. Pretrial Hearing – This hearing is conducted to address pretrial motions, discovery issues and plea negotiations.
  7. Trial – If the accused pleads not guilty, and no plea bargain is reached, a trial will ensue. The Thirteenth Judicial District Office of Arkansas’ office opens the trial with the opening statement outlining the charges and evidence against the accused. The accused’s defense attorney then makes an opening statement. Witnesses are called, evidence explored and closing statements are made. The fact finder, which may be the judge or jury, then renders a guilty or not guilty decision.
  8. Dispositions and Sentencing – If the defendant is found guilty, depending upon the crime for which he was convicted, the punishment may either be one of the following or a combination of the following: imprisonment, fine, restitution, probation, or suspended imposition of sentence. Arkansas is one of six states that practices jury sentencing. The length of sentence a defendant can receive is based upon the classification of the crime he committed. Crimes are classified as felonies, misdemeanors, or violations.

13th Judicial District criminal prosecuting