What is the Felony Flow Chart?
The felony flow chart describes the process of felony charges and sentencing. It begins before arrest and ends on completion of the sentence. The process is slightly different in each state. But most major steps in the felony flow chart look similar. Here’s a rundown of how the process looks in most states:
Pre-Arrest or Pre-Warrant Felony Arrest
The first step in the felony flow chart occurs before arrest. This is when a crime is committed or reported. If someone reports a crime, officers may investigate. During this investigation, they may find enough evidence for an arrest. If this happens, they will ask the judge to issue a warrant. Once they have an arrest warrant, officers locate the suspect and take them into custody.
Sometimes, officers do not identify a suspect quickly. They will refer the case to a detective. The detective will investigate the alleged crime more. Next, they will work with the district attorney to decide if there is enough evidence to make an arrest.
Formal Charges and Pre-Trial Process
If the investigation leads to arrest, the next step on the felony flow chart is to go before the judge. The judge will review the crime and hear arguments for bond. This is when the judge decides if the accused will remain in jail or prison until trial. Once the bond is set, the arrestee may post bond. If they do not, they will remain in custody.
Next, a grand jury will decide if the prosecution has enough evidence or probable cause to charge the accused. Prosecutors may also request a preliminary hearing to determine if probable cause is sufficient to charge the accused. Sometimes, the grand jury will decide not to proceed to trial. If they do not issue charges, the judge must release the accused. If the grand jury finds probable cause and decides to proceed to trial, the court will issue an indictment.
The pre-trial process can take a long time. This is when the district attorney builds its case. The accused can also meet with their attorney to plan a defense for trial. The judge will set a trial date. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers can request more time to build their case.
Before someone accused of a crime goes to trial, they have to enter a plea. If the plea is “not guilty,” the judge will set a pre-trial conference at which a trial date is set. The prosecution may offer a reduced sentence in exchange for a “guilty” plea. If the accused pleads guilty, there is no trial. Instead, they go before the judge for sentencing.
Standing Trial for Felony Charges
The next step in the felony flow chart is trial. During the trial process, the prosecution and defense will each present a case. A jury will hear both sides and make a judgment based on the evidence. Most trials result in a verdict of guilty or not guilty. If the jury votes not guilty, the court releases the accused. If they return a guilty verdict, the judge will issue a sentence for each conviction.
Not all jury trials result in a verdict. Sometimes, the trial can have a hung jury or mistrial. This does not mean the accused is acquitted. In a mistrial, the state can hold a new trial against the defendant.
Felony Sentencing and Release
Once the judge sets a sentence, the defendant goes to prison. The judge will decide if the sentence includes the option for parole. If it does, the convicted person will meet with a parole board at set times. Incarcerated people may also be able to earn good time credits to reduce their sentence.
After release, some formerly incarcerated people may be put on parole or probation. If this happens, they must follow the rules set by the court. Formerly incarcerated people who violate parole or probation may go back to prison.
While the process is not exactly the same in all states, the felony flow chart can help outline the steps from the report of a crime to trial, sentencing, and release. In most cases, these steps include: arrest, pre-trial, trial, sentencing, imprisonment, and release. Your attorney can help you understand the the process in your state.