The disposition process in Superior Court is as follows:
First Appearance Hearing – The purpose of this hearing is to establish that there is enough evidence to proceed with prosecution. Additionally, a number of procedural issues are handled including a determination of indigence, the appointment of defense counsel, a determination of the appropriate case track (Non-Complex, Standard, Complex), a determination of bond and the next scheduled court appearance.
All Purpose Hearing – At this hearing, a number of case management-related issues are resolved. If needed, preliminary hearings are held.
Preliminary Hearing- A preliminary hearing is an evidentiary hearing best described as a "trial before the trial" at which the judge decides, at a more in depth level whether there is enough evidence to proceed with prosecution. Preliminary hearings occur if the defendant has not been formally charged but is still being held in jail. Additionally, if the defendant is subject to probation revocation, s(he) is given notice. For defendants remaining in jail, bond and release recommendations are reviewed. Negotiated pleas and non-negotiated pleas are also taken. Finally, for cases continuing, the next court date is set.
Grand Jury- The Grand Jury is the citizen body that determines whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. If so, an indictment or formal criminal charge against a defendant is issued. Grand Jury hearings are confidential and closed to the public.
Plea and Arraignment: At this hearing, a number of case management-related issues are resolved. The defense counsel is verified or appointed; release considerations are reviewed; Discovery requests (Defense) are filed and served** (prosecutors); non-negotiated and negotiated pleas are accepted. For cases continuing, the next court date is set.
Pre-Trial Conference: At this hearing, non-negotiated and negotiated pleas are accepted; discovery requests are filed and served; the next court date is set.
Motions Hearings: At this hearing, evidence suppression matters are heard; jury challenges are heard and ruled upon; non-negotiated and negotiated pleas are accepted.
Trial: This is the final stage of the criminal justice process. Evidence is presented to a jury (jury trial) or to the judge (bench trial) to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
* In a negotiated guilty plea, the District Attorney and the defense attorney agree to a sentence which they propose to the Judge. The Judge may or may not accept the proposed sentence. A non-negotiated plea is one for which the District Attorney and defense attorney have not reached an agreement. In a non-negotiated plea, the defendant appears before the Judge and the Judge determines the sentence.