The criminal justice process is the system that exists to try people for crimes for which they have been charged. The burden of proof in a criminal case is on the government, and it requires proof of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, in order to be convicted of a crime, the government must prove to the satisfaction of 12 jurors that the person charged with a crime committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the U.S. Constitution, all criminal defendants are presumed innocent until convicted, and they are entitled to a speedy trial.
There are several steps in the criminal justice process.
Arrest. The process often begins with the arrest by the police of the person suspected of committing a crime. In some cases, the process begins with an indictment by a grand jury. Following an indictment, an arrest warrant is issued and the suspect is arrested.
Bail. The next step is a bail hearing, at which time the judge hears the charges and decides if the accused should be released on bail or kept in custody. An accused will be kept in custody if, for example, the court is convinced that he or she might leave the country. At this hearing, the accused is informed of the charges and given the right to a public defender if he or she cannot afford an attorney.
Probable-cause hearing. The next step is a probable-cause hearing, at which time the judge hears the evidence and decides whether probable cause exists to believe the accused committed the crime. If probable cause does not exist, the accused is set free.
Arraignment. The next step is the arraignment, at which time the accused makes his or her plea. In Illinois, three pleas are possible: guilty, not guilty, and guilty but mentally ill.
Trial. If the accused pleads not guilty, and no plea bargain is reached, the trial is the next step. The prosecution goes first and makes an opening statement. The accused's attorney then makes an opening statement. The prosecution then calls witnesses, who are cross-examined by the accused's attorney. The accused calls witnesses, who are cross-examined by the prosecution. The prosecution makes closing arguments, followed by the accused's attorney's closing argument. The jury then renders a guilty or not guilty decision.
Sentencing. If the accused is found guilty, the next step is the sentencing. The law statutes set out the type of sentence that the judge can apply. The judge at the sentencing considers the evidence at trial; a pre- sentencing report; mitigating circumstances, if any; a statement made by the accused; and statements made by the victim or the victims relatives to reach a decision.
Appeal. The accused is entitled to appeal any guilty verdicts. The prosecutor, however, cannot appeal a not guilty verdict because of the double-jeopardy rule, which says that someone cannot be tried twice for the same crime.