Misdemeanors begin with either the issuance of a uniform citation or a Criminal Complaint and Summons which contain the charge against the defendant and a date he/she is to appear in court.
The defendant's first appearance in the case is called an arraignment/initial appearance. During an arraignment/initial appearance, the defendant is informed of the charge or charges filed, the maximum possible penalties, and the defendant's constitutional rights. If a defendant does not have sufficient income to hire an attorney and if the misdemeanor charge against the defendant carries a mandatory jail sentence, the court may appoint the public defender to represent the defendant. If the defendant has been arrested, the court also discusses any bond that has already been set by the court or requested by the prosecution. If the defendant pleads guilty at the arraignment, the defendant can be sentenced at that time or at a later date. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the court will set the next hearing for the defendant to attend. That hearing is called a pretrial conference.
At a Pretrial Conference, the defendant (and/or his/her attorney) meets with a deputy prosecuting attorney to discuss the charges and determine if they can reach a satisfactory resolution to the case. If an agreement is reached, the defendant may be sentenced at the time of the pretrial conference. Certain cases, such as domestic battery and driving under the influence charges, require the defendant to obtain an evaluation prior to sentencing. In such cases, sentencing will be held at a later date.
If a resolution cannot be reached, the court will either set a date for another pretrial conference or schedule the matter for trial. In the event the case is set for trial, the court will also set a final pretrial conference. The purpose of the final pretrial conference is to allow the parties a last opportunity to resolve the case and to discuss procedural matters involved in the trial.
Trials are either "jury trials" or "court trials." In a court trial, the defendant’s guilt is determined by a magistrate judge. In a jury trial, the defendant’s guilt is determined by a panel of six (6) jurors. This is usually done because of the cost and time associated with conducting a jury trial - court trials being quicker and less expensive. The defendant has a constitutional right to a jury trial. Both parties must agree to a court trial.
After the defendant has pled or is found guilty, the defendant is sentenced. Sentencing may occur at the Pretrial Conference or the court may set it for sentencing at a later date. At sentencing, the prosecution and defense may make arguments to the court about an appropriate sentence. Witnesses may be called by the prosecution and/or the defense to introduce evidence to support their position about the appropriate sentence. Victims also have a right to address the court. Ultimately, the court decides the sentence imposed. The possible penalties vary depending on the case. Possible penalties the court may impose include, but are not limited to, jail time, fines, driver’s license suspension, restitution and probation.
The court can place a defendant on probation. Probation may be supervised or unsupervised. Probation is supervised by Nez Perce County Justice Services. If a defendant is placed on probation, he is required to comply with certain terms the court imposes. Examples of these terms can include counseling, community service, random urinalysis, restrictions on associating with certain people or going to certain businesses or locations, and/or random search and seizure of the defendant, of his/her residence and/or of his/her vehicle. The court usually suspends a portion of the defendant’s sentence. If the defendant fails to comply with the terms of his/her probation, the court may impose some or all of the suspended sentence.
If a defendant fails to appear for any scheduled court date, the court may issue a warrant for his/her arrest.