Summary of The Mississippi Criminal Justice Process

Once an arrest is made (and often before), a person finds him/herself dragged into a machine that seems to churn along without any regard to the specifics of his case or his/her particular circumstances. If a public defender is appointed, the appointment is often only temporary, until another public defender picks up the file. If an experienced attorney is not retained quickly, then defensive opportunities often pass by that will not come again.

After the felony arrest, in the typical case, an initial appearance takes place first. At the initial appearance, the judge advises the accused of his charge and bond amount. The initial appearance is followed by the preliminary hearing, which, depending upon the unique circumstances of the case, either should or should not be waived. Very often, the preliminary hearing SHOULD NOT be waived. Be aware that in most counties, posting bond automatically waives preliminary hearing.

After the preliminary hearing, the case may be presented to the Grand Jury which will decide whether or not to return an indictment (formal charge) against the accused. If an indictment is returned by the Grand Jury, then the Circuit Court has jurisdiction over the matter and the first appearance in Circuit Court will be the arraignment where the defendant (accused) will enter a plea of not guilty and be assigned a trial date. After arraignment, the discovery process will begin and pre-trial motions and other matters will be dealt with by the Court when prompted to do so by defense counsel.

Eventually, the case will come to a close either by a trial by jury, a guilty plea (plea bargain; or “open” plea), a diversion program or a dismissal. The same thing will simultaneously be happening to hundreds of other cases (people) in the same court system. Hundreds become thousands and people become numbers. Thus, it is critical that you have an experienced, effective, ethical advocate taking care to make sure that your best interests are kept in focus.