When an accused is arrested in a criminal matter in the state of Kentucky this is considered as the start of a series of judicial and legal processes that will be carried out against him till the point that a verdict is delivered on his case. If this person is found guilty of the charges filed against him, he will then be sent to the state correctional system. The following is a description of the various steps encountered along the way.
It all starts with that one misstep!
If a person is found to be committing a criminal act, whether it is one that can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor, he will be arrested on spot by the police officer. Such a scenario does not call for the need of an arrest warrant. A similar situation arises when there are several witnesses to the criminal act or a law enforcement agent has probable cause to believe that an individual will commit a crime.
However, in cases where the person responsible for the illicit act cannot be arrested at once or little is known about him and his whereabouts, a warrant will be sought from the court for this individual’s detention. This is when the judiciary gets involved in the criminal process. Probable cause has to exist before a person can be arrested without a warrant and even when the court is petitioned for the release of the detention order.
Before the judge
The first time the accused is brought before the court after his arrest is for the bail hearing. This is usually done within 24 hours of being arrested. It is at the discretion of the magistrate whether to grant bail or not.
The application will be reviewed in light of the past criminal record of the accused and the risk of his not attending court sessions as ordered if he is released. If there is any history showing that prior legal directives were disobeyed, the judge may decide to order that the person be held in custody.
Before the trial proper
A preliminary hearing is next in line and it is usually held within 10 days for offenders who are in jail for felony charges and within 20 days for suspects who are not in judicial or police custody. At this point, the judge has the task of deciding if the evidence in the matter is enough to initiate a trial against the suspect. If it is, the matter is sent for a grand jury hearing.
Suspects can waive their right to a preliminary hearing and request that the case is directly heard by the grand jury. In long running investigations it is the norm for the prosecution to go for a grand jury proceeding in which the jurors decide if there is enough ground for indictment.
A plea bargain is entered into if one has been worked out at the next stage. The judge is not obligated to accept the arrangement but will in most cases.
The trial begins!
In Kentucky the defense can choose to have the case heard and decided on by a judge or by a 12 member jury panel. Usually, criminal matters are heard by the jury. At the trial, the prosecution and the defense start with their opening statements in which the jurors are the judge are told of the criminal incident that has occurred and the involvement of the accused in it.
Subsequently, witnesses are called in from both sides and expert testimony presented. It all comes to an end with the closing argument. The jury members are then given time to deliberate on case facts and present their verdict. Make no mistake, the jury will only decide on whether the person is guilty or not. The actual sentencing is done by the magistrate in keeping with the laws of the land.