SEQUENCE OF EVENTS IN KENTUCKY FELONY CASES
- Warrant/Arrest—You have been arrested on a warrant or a citation charging you with a felony. You will be jailed where you will meet with a pretrial services officer after being booked. Based on the information you provide about your background (not about the crime charged), your criminal history and the verification of the information you provide, the pretrial officer and a Judge will determine your bond. Bond is the cash or property you will be required to deposit with the court to insure your future court appearances. There are no bail bondsmen in Kentucky. Your case will normally start at the District Court level where you will be arraigned (formally advised of the charges). The District Court will also conduct a preliminary hearing to insure the sufficiency of the charging evidence and the proper charging location. If you have been indicted by a Circuit Court grand jury before your arrest, you will skip the District Court proceedings and be arraigned in Circuit Court.
- Arraignment—This is your initial appearance before a Judge. Even if you are guilty and want to plead guilty, you may not do so in District Court because the District Court does not have the authority to resolve felony cases. At this initial appearance, an interpreter is appointed, if necessary, and if you are still in jail, your bond will be reviewed. You will formally be advised of the charges against you.
- Preliminary Hearing-- This is your next court appearance, usually scheduled within 10 days after Arraignment if you are in jail, and no later than 20 days after Arraignment if you are out of jail. Unless you waive your right to a preliminary hearing, at the hearing, the District Court Judge will determine if you should be tried for the crime charged, based on whether there is some substantive evidence you committed the crime. If substantive evidence exists, your case will be sent to the Grand Jury for another hearing. The government is not required to provide you or your attorney with the physical evidence against you at this time. A Grand Jury will hear your case within 30-90 days, sometimes sooner.
- Grand Jury -- The primary responsibility of the grand jury is to hear evidence of criminal accusations in your felony case as presented by the Commonwealth Attorney and decide whether you should be indicted and tried for crimes charged. You can testify before the grand jury, but it is not recommended for many reasons.
- Indictment – An indictment is the charging document issued by the grand jury specifying the charges against you. A finding of No True Bill indicates the grand jury determined you did not commit a felony crime. If the grand jury determines there is insufficient evidence to charge a crime, you will be released from jail or, if released, your cash or property bond will be returned.
- Arraignment – This is the initial appearance before the Circuit Judge after Indictment. The indictment against you will be read to you, or you can waive the formal reading of the indictment. Once again, you will plead not guilty and a pretrial conference will be set. The Judge will order the Commonwealth Attorney to disclose the evidence against you.
- Pretrial Conference – Prior to this court date, the Commonwealth will provide you and your attorney with a plea bargain offer, which may include the reduction of charges, jail time, fines, or dismissal of some charges if you plead guilty to others. Should you reject the plea bargain offer, a trial date will be set.
- Jury Trial -- The Commonwealth will present its case against you to a jury. Your attorney may question the witnesses to dispute the charges. You will also be permitted to present evidence on your behalf. The factual questions and the final judgment are determined by a 12-person jury. If you are found guilty, you can be sent to prison and/or pay fines. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled. Between the trial and the sentencing hearing, a presentence report will be prepared. It will be disclosed to you and the Judge prior to sentencing. At the sentencing hearing, you will be given a chance to tell the Judge any information helpful in obtaining probation, if you are eligible. The Judge will sentence you to jail or probation. You can begin the appeal process after sentencing. If you are acquitted by the jury, you will be released if incarcerated. If not incarcerated, you may resume your life never having to worry about facing the same charges. If you have been acquitted, you can have the court record expunged in 60 days.