A misdemeanor is a crime that may be punishable by confinement to a county jail for one year or less. The steps through a misdemeanor case are as follows:
- Initial Appearance: A defendant's (the accused) first appearance in court. At this court appearance, the defendant is informed of the charges and penalties, bail is set and a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest is usually entered. Usually, the defendant will receive a document showing what sentence the prosecutor will be asking from the Judge. If the defendant desires to plead guilty or no contest, the matter will typically proceed to sentencing at the same hearing. If victims have requested notification a separate sentencing date will be set. If the plea is not guilty, a date for a return date and a date for a trial is set.
- Return date, Pre-Trial or Status Conference: A court hearing set so that the judge can be informed if the matter will be proceeding to trial. If an agreement has been reached, it could become a plea and sentencing hearing.
- Motions: A verbal or written request that asks the judge to decide a legal question made by the prosecutor or by the defendant before, during or after the trial.
- Trial: An official hearing in which either a jury (jury trial) or judge (court trial) hears the facts of the case. Through physical evidence and testimony by witnesses, the prosecutor attempts to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge may sentence the defendant immediately or set the case for a sentencing hearing.
- Plea/Sentencing: A court hearing in which the judge decides how to punish and rehabilitate the defendant. A sentencing hearing follows a plea of guilty or no contest plea, or a finding of guilty by a jury or judge.
- Restitution Hearing: A court hearing held at or after sentencing in which the court determines the amount of restitution which may be ordered for the victim(s). The defendant can dispute either the amount the victim is requesting or the defendant’s ability to pay the amount requested. In establishing the amount of restitution to be ordered, the court must determine both the amount the victim is entitled to and the amount the defendant has the ability to pay. Victims will have the obligation of producing documentation and evidence to justify the amount they are requesting and appear at the hearing to support the claim. Victims are entitled to representation at this hearing and may retain counsel if they wish to do so.