What Should I Expect During My Criminal Court Case?
If you have been arrested and are facing criminal charges in Wyoming, you should expect to show up in court on several occasions:
- Arraignment or Initial Appearance: Charges are read and an initial plea is entered (not guilty you plan to hire a lawyer).
- Indictment or Preliminary Hearing: Only in felony cases (and Class 1 misdemeanors in South Dakota), these hearings are held before a grand jury (indictment) or judge (preliminary hearing) to determine if there is "probable cause" that a crime was committed by the defendant. In Wyoming, this must happen within 10 days of your Initial Appearance if you are in jail or 20 days if you have been released on bail. In South Dakota the deadlines are 15 days in custody or 45 days on bail.
- Plea Bargaining: The prosecutor and your criminal defense attorney meet to discuss possible pleas and exchange information. If you decide to take a plea bargain, you will be required to appear before the judge and make a statement.
- Jury or Bench Trial: The prosecutor and your attorney present evidence of your guilt or innocence. You have a right to a jury trial if you are facing jail time, or have been charged with drunk driving in Wyoming. If you waive that right, or if your misdemeanor involves no jail time, your case will be decided by a judge.
- Pre-Sentence Investigation: In felony cases, you will be interviewed by the probation department and a report will be prepared for the judge.
- Sentencing Hearing: If you are charged with a misdemeanor this may happen immediately after your plea bargain or trial. For felony cases, there is a separate hearing. The judge will review the circumstances of your case and impose a penalty, which may start immediately after the hearing.