A misdemeanor is a crime that may be punishable by confinement to a county jail for one year or less. The steps through a misdemeanor case are as follows:
INITIAL APPEARANCE: A defendant's (the accused) first appearance in court. At this court appearance, the defendant is informed of the charges and penalties, bail is set and a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest is usually entered. Usually, the defendant will receive a document showing what sentence the prosecutor will be asking from the Judge. If the defendant desires to plead guilty or no contest, the matter will be set with the judge for a sentencing that morning. If the plea is not guilty, a date for a return date and a date for a trial is set.
RETURN DATE OR IN PERSON STATUS CONFERENCE: A court hearing set so that the judge can be informed if the matter will be proceeding to trial. If an agreement has been reached, it could become a plea and sentencing hearing.
MOTIONS: A verbal or written request that asks the judge to decide a legal question made by the prosecutor or by the defendant before, during or after the trial.
TRIAL: An official hearing in which either a jury (jury trial) or judge (bench trial) hears the facts of the case. Through physical evidence and testimony by witnesses, the prosecutor attempts to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant's guilt. If the defendant is found guilty, the judge may sentence the defendant immediately or set the case for a sentencing hearing.
PLEA/SENTENCING: A court hearing in which the judge decides how to punish and rehabilitate the defendant. A sentencing hearing follows a plea of guilty or no contest plea, or a finding of guilty by a jury or judge.