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Kentucky Criminal Justice System

When you face criminal charges in the Commonwealth of Kentucky you should be familiar with the Kentucky Criminal Justice system. Your case can begin in several different manners. A police officer may initiate a charge after an arrest, through a criminal complaint, or through a direct indictment.

What happens after you are charged with a misdemeanor?

If your charge is a misdemeanor, your first court appearance will be at an arraignment in District Court. At the arraignment, if you enter a not guilty plea the Judge will likely set your pretrial conference date and trial date. At some point in the process, the prosecutor will offer a plea bargain to resolve the case. If you accept, then you enter a guilty plea and accept the penalty offered by the prosecutor. If you do not accept the offer, then you may face a trial.
Misdemeanors are defined by carrying a sentence of a year or less and should be taken seriously. Driving under the influence (DUI/OVI/DWI) is a misdemeanor and the possible sentence can affect every aspect of your life in a manner perhaps more pervasive than some felonies. You should have an attorney to help you navigate the

What happens after you are charged with a felony?

First if you have been charged with a felony you should contact an attorney. A felony will carry a possible sentence of at least a year in prison and possibly much more. Your first court appearance could be your arraignment at district court. At the arraignment, the Judge will likely set a preliminary hearing date for your case. At the preliminary hearing, the Judge will decide whether probable cause exists. Very often the Judge finds probable cause. When probable cause is found your case is bound over to the grand jury. The grand jury will vote whether to return an indictment on your case. When that happens your case is sent to Circuit Court. You will be given an arraignment date. At the arraignment you will likely be given a pretrial and trial date.

It is also possible that the prosecutor and police officer could decide to skip the District Court process and present your felony case directly to the grand jury. This is called a direct indictment. In this case your first appearance will be your felony arraignment.

Possession of heroin is an example of a felony. The possible sentence will range depending on the number of times you have been charged and whether you intended to sell the heroin to someone else. You should contact an attorney to determine whether seeking treatment for your addiction is a possibility instead of prison time.

Theft charges often are paired with possession of heroin charges because addicts often steal to support their habits. Whether theft is a felony or misdemeanor depends on the amount stolen. Restitution is an important goal in theft cases, and you will need an attorney to help you negotiate with a prosecutor regarding the terms of payment of restitution.

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