2. INITIAL APPEARANCE. Within 48 hours of arrest, the person arrested must be brought before a judge to be informed of the charges that are holding him or her in jail and to have the judge set a bond.
3. BOND HEARING. The person arrested on a felony cannot get out of jail without a bond. A bond is an amount of money paid by the person arrested (cash bond) or with the help of a bondsman who takes a percentage of cash money on the bond issued by the Court(about 10 percent)and then insures the remaining amount. A bond is paid to insure that the arrested person will come to Court. If the accused person does not show up for court after “bonding out of jail”, then a judge will issue a bench warrant for the accused person’s arrest and a judgment that if the accused is not arrested the bond is forfeited. The bonding company attempts to capture the accused to avoid paying out the judgment for the full amount of the bond. If a bond is set unreasonably too high for the accused to be released, then the accused’s lawyer can request a bond reduction hearing before the judge. There are some instances when the accused is not entitled to a bond due to being a flight risk or risk to the safety of the victim.
4.PRELIMINARY HEARING. A preliminary hearing is conducted to show whether there is probable cause to hold the accused in jail until the Grand Jury meets. The accused person has a preliminary hearing if he or she cannot successfully be released from jail on a bond. If the accused is released from jail on a bond, then there is no right to preliminary hearing.
5.GRAND JURY. In Mississippi, a “felony” criminal case moves from the local city or Justice Court to Circuit Court after the accused is indicted by a grand jury. The district attorney’s office presents a “felony” criminal case to a secret grand jury to determine if the State of Mississippi has enough evidence to fairly require a citizen to answer to and defend against a felony criminal charge. If the grand jury rejects the district attorney’s case for indictment, then the lower court may take the case back and prosecute the case as a misdemeanor. The primary difference between a felony and misdemeanor is that if convicted of the felony, the possible jail time for the accused is more than one year.
6.SERVICE OF CAPIAS AND INDICTMENT. After the grand jury issues a felony capias and indictment against the accused, the sheriff will serve a copy of the capias and indictment to the accused person with a list of charges and a date to appear before the Circuit Court. If the person is already out of jail on a bond and on good terms with the bonding company, then sometimes the accused can pick up their capias and indictment from the sheriff’s office instead of being arrested again. Sometimes the accused has to be arrested for the first time upon the indictment and released from jail with a bond.
7.ARRAIGNMENT. An arraignment is a formal hearing where the accused appears before the Circuit Court and pleads guilty or not guilty of the felony charge or charges stated in the indictment from the grand jury.
8.6th AMENDMENT RIGHT TO AN ATTORNEY. A person accused of a felony can either hire a private attorney to help defend against the felony indictment or may be entitled to a public defender if the accused is indigent or unable to pay for a private defense attorney.
9.DISCOVERY. After the accused either hires a defense attorney or utilizes the services of a court appointed attorney, the attorney will request discovery from the district attorney’s office. Discovery is basically all the evidence that the State of Mississippi has in the felony case, both good and bad. The defense lawyer will provide a copy of the discovery to the accused person and schedule an appointment to review discovery. The attorney and accused will also begin to discuss any plea offers made by the State of Mississippi. If the accused decides to take the case to trial, then reciprocal discovery from the accused will be required to be submitted to the district attorney’s office. Basically, both sides must submit any evidence they plan to introduce at trial in the discovery process prior to trial or risk that evidence not being admitted at trial.
10.PLEA. If the accused decides to accept a plea offer from the district attorney’s office, rather than take the case to trial, then the accused will submit a plea petition and participate in a hearing before the Circuit Court Judge to accept that plea. Typically, the district attorney will have a recommendation for sentencing on the case but the Circuit Court Judge is not required to accept that recommendation from the district attorney.
11.TRIAL. If plea negotiations are unsuccessful or the accused maintains his or her innocence, then the case may proceed to trial. If the accused is found not guilty or innocent at trial, then the case is over and the accused is free to leave. If the accused is found guilty at trial, then the Court can proceed or put off sentencing of the convicted person to a later date.
12.APPEAL. If the accused person is found guilty and the Circuit Court Judge will not reconsider his ruling, the convicted person may appeal the Circuit Court Judge’s ruling to either the Mississippi Court of Appeals or the Mississippi Supreme Court to decide whether the Circuit Court Judge’s decision will be upheld. A ruling from the Mississippi Court of Appeals may be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.