Pleas and Setting – Misdemeanors
In misdemeanor cases, this is a hearing in County Court after Arraignment at which a defendant pleads guilty or not guilty and the judge schedules further proceedings.
Disposition & Motion Hearings (District Court)
While disposition hearings for many felony cases are held (often in conjunction with the preliminary hearing) in County Court after charges are filed, a disposition hearing can also be scheduled in District Court after arraignment. Motion hearings, at which a court will hear arguments on oral or written requests for a ruling on a particular legal point or issue related to the criminal case, are also scheduled prior to trial.
Pre-Trial Conference (District Court)
A meeting between the prosecutor, the defendant or his attorney and the court to resolve issues prior to trial so that the parties and the court are better prepared for trial. The parties might also discuss a plea bargain.
If the defendant pleads not guilty, and the case is not otherwise resolved by dismissal, guilty plea, or plea bargain, the next step in the process is a jury trial or trial to the court (bench trial). A defendant has the right to demand a jury trial for misdemeanor crimes and can request a jury trial for petty offenses and municipal ordinance violations. Misdemeanor trials are held in County Court. The trial may be preceded by hearings on motions. A defendant may plead guilty at any point of the prosecution process, including up to and during a trial.
A trial may result in a conviction by the judge or jury on the original-filed or later-added charges, on only a portion of the charges, or on any lesser included offense.
Conviction and Sentencing
If the defendant is found guilty by plea or jury/judge verdict, then he or she is said to be convicted of the charges. If a defendant is convicted, the next step is sentencing. Sentencing can occur immediately but is usually scheduled for another date several weeks later. It is a judge's responsibility to sentence the defendant, and requiring the defendant return for sentencing at a later date allows the judge to gather additional information through a Pre-Sentencing Investigation (PSI) before the sentencing decision is made.