Criminal processing is handled by the judiciary and the police in CT. While cops only get actively involved in the case till the matter is taken to court, the arrest warrants are issued and the offenders are placed in custodial detention, the courts handle the actual initiation of the criminal trial against suspects and are in charge of imposing punitive sentences on those who are found guilty as charged.
It all starts with the arrests
Whether offenders are apprehended under the provisions of a CT outstanding warrant or not, once the accused is taken into custody, he can only be held for 48 hours before the court needs to hear about him. Also, the police cannot just pick up anybody at a whim; to back arrests, they need an active warrant sanctioned by the courts. This is done in case of misdemeanors. Alternatively, they need to have enough evidence to establish reasonable belief that the crime was indeed commissioned by the person to be detained; this is allowed in case of felonies.
Be prepared to go to court
If you are detained in police custody, you will be put through the booking process where they take your fingerprints and photographs for the arrest records file. However, in many instances, a citation will be issued by the police officer in charge or a criminal summons will be released against the accused. Both of these are orders to appear in court.
In CT, matters involving serious criminal infractions are handled by Part A Superior Courts while misdemeanors and petty transgressions are heard by Part B Superior Tribunals. Your first appearance in court will involve an arraignment. In this session, you will be advised of your rights, the charges will be read out to you, bail petition will be considered and you will have to enter a plea.
Preparation for the trial
If bail is granted, and not everybody is released on bond, the judge will review the status of the bond after 45 days. In the meanwhile, pretrial conferences will be held. These do not take place in front of the judge but are meetings between attorneys of both sides. Typically, during these sessions, the defense and the prosecution put the cards they hold out on the table.
Based on who has the stronger case, a plea bargain may be suggested. Usually, the prosecution does not want to go to trial if the defense is willing to cooperate. Here the term negotiation stands for accepting guilt and entering such a plea. In return, the prosecution will lower the charges against the defendant, so he will get a less severe penalty.
The trial can run for days
Typically, the trial starts with the opening statements which are covered in the first day. Both the defense and the prosecution have their own assumption about the case in hand and they explain this to the jury with their opening statements. Next, both sides launch into proving that the defendant is guilty (prosecution) or not guilty (defense).
It should be noted here that while the prosecution bears the significant burden of proving the accused is guilty beyond doubt, the defense merely has to show that there is another possibility. Throughout this process, evidence is presented before the court and the witnesses are called in for their testimony. Both lawyers get the chance to direct examine their witnesses and cross examine the people brought to the stands by the other side.
Finally, the attorneys will finish with their closing statements in which they reiterate the facts one more time and call for the jury to consider all of these before making a decision. At this point, the judge issues instructions to the jury and they are sent to a room to decide. The jury can be out for several hours since a unanimous decision is needed to deliver the verdict. Three situations can evolve after this juncture:
- The defendant is found guilty as all jury members agree that the evidence shows his involvement in the crime
- All jurors do not agree on the guilt or the innocence of the accused hence a retrial is ordered
- The defendant is unanimously found not guilty
Based on the verdict, the defendant will either be able to walk or will be taken into custody to await sentencing which will be done by the judge.