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The criminal justice process - Investigation

Find information about the investigation step of the criminal justice process.

When a crime is reported to the police:

  • A suspect may be arrested.
  • Further investigation may lead to an arrest or charges being filed.
  • No arrest. This does not mean that something bad did not happen. However, for a number of reasons, no crime may be charged or no suspect may be identified.

Once a suspect has been found, the case will follow the applicable path.

Arrest > First appearance hearing

If the suspect is arrested on scene, they will appear before a judge within 24 hours of that arrest.

1st appearance hearing

  • The judge will decide Probable Cause
  • The judge will decide if any bail will be set or release with the promise of returning within 48-hours for a "rush" filing decision.

2nd appearance

No hearing will take place. Rather:

  • The prosecutor must decide if charges will be filed by this time.
  • If NO charges are filed, the individual will be released with no conditions.
    **Charges could be filed in the future within the statute of limitations for a given charge.**
  • If charges are filed, the individual will be notified and the arraignment hearing date will be set usually 2 weeks out.

Charges following investigation

It's not uncommon for Law Enforcement to not make an immediate arrest. Sometimes additional investigation occurs, including:

  • Collecting evidence,
  • Conducting interviews,
  • Completing additional tests.

After investigation, law enforcement may send their report to the prosecutor for review. In general, the prosecutor will review a case on these basic elements:

  1. Has a crime been committed?
  2. How serious is that crime based on state law? (i.e., difference between 4th degree and 2nd degree assault)
  3. The crime can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Following their review, the prosecutor may:

  • File charges and summon the suspect to court.
  • May decline to file charges.
  • Refer a case to a District or Municipal court for review.

Just because the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office does not proceed with criminal charging does not mean that harm didn’t occur.

Crime Victims

During an investigation, law enforcement may have limited information on what they can share with victims and family members. To learn more about your case while under investigation, please
contact the police department where you made your report to find out more information.

You may have a right to be present at the first appearance hearing and give a statement to the court about your concerns regarding release. Please contact our office to learn more.