Which Court Personnel Are Involved in Criminal Cases?
Individuals charged with crimes are processed through the criminal justice system, where they have an opportunity to challenge the charges brought against them and face penalties and imprisonment upon conviction. Whether a case is handled in the state, federal, or even juvenile court system, these venues have an array of personnel who are tasked with facilitating the process from arrest and prosecution to incarceration and post-conviction supervision.
As Reno criminal defense lawyers with decades of collective experience protecting the rights, freedoms, and futures of clients charged with all types of crimes, our legal team at Joey Gilbert Law knows the intricacies of the criminal justice system, as well as how to work effectively with court personnel as we advocate for our clients. To help you gain a better understanding of who is involved in a typical criminal case and your criminal defense, we have put together the following information.
Law enforcement officers are typically the first personnel individuals come into contact with during a criminal case. These can include local police, Sheriffs, state police or highway patrol, or federal law enforcement officers from various federal agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, SEC, IRS, Secret Service (which handles some federal crimes in addition to protecting the President), and others. Law enforcement may stop and arrest suspect as they are committing a crime or immediately following the commission of a crime, or may conduct investigations that lead to a suspect’s arrest. Law enforcement also book suspects into the criminal justice system, may handle their incarceration while they await a hearing or trial, and may transport defendants to and from court.
Prosecutors are attorneys who work for the government (either local or federal). They are tasked with making determinations over whether or not suspects who have been arrested by law enforcement should be criminally charged and what charges they should face, including whether or not to charge suspects with misdemeanors or felonies. Prosecutors have a great deal of power when it comes to charging suspects, pushing for certain penalties, and negotiating plea deals or other outcomes, which is why it becomes crucial for defendants to work with criminal defense attorneys who know how to communicate effectively with prosecutors. Prosecutors are also tasked with compiling evidence and arguments that support the government’s narrative about what happened during an arrest and / or why a defendant is guilty.
Judges oversee criminal cases, and while they work with law enforcement and prosecutors to grant warrants or approve the admission of certain evidence to be heard by the court and juries, they generally function more as umpires or referees to ensure laws and court procedures are properly followed by both the government and the defense. Judges are meant to be unbiased officiators of the law, which means they apply their knowledge of the law to the specifics of a case, whether they personally agree with the law or not, and instruct juries on legal principles and rules to follow when weighing the facts. In some criminal cases, judges may have the ability to determine a defendant’s guilt and sentence (bench trials) or only their sentence after they have been convicted by a jury (jury trials). Judges have many functions in criminal cases, which is why they have such an important role.
A defendant’s right to trial by jury of their peers is one of the hallmarks of the American judicial system. Juries are groups of people who are summoned by the government to uphold their civil duty (which is why you can face repercussions for not going to jury duty), and who are sworn to decide on the facts at issue in a given criminal case. Juries are selected during a process known as voir dire, during which both the prosecution and defense can question them in order to determine whether or not they can be unbiased in assessing the facts of a case. There are two different types of juries. Grand juries are comprised of citizens (usually 23 individuals) who must determine whether the facts and allegations presented by the government (prosecutors) are sufficient to warrant an indictment and eventual trial of a suspect. Grand juries are not used in every state, but are used in many felony and federal cases. Trial juries, on the other hand, are comprised of 12 members who must unanimously agree on whether or not a defendant is guilty of a crime based on consideration of admissible evidence.
Witnesses are not an element in every criminal case, but they are present in most. Witnesses can play a valuable role for helping either the prosecution or defense in supporting their side of the story. These witnesses may be called to testify under oath in criminal cases after receiving a subpoena, and may share their knowledge of a crime, their story as an alleged victim, their involvement as a co-defendant or informant, or their expertise as an expert (such as a medical expert who comments on the nature of injuries sustained by a victim).
In addition to the above mentioned parties, there are also other personnel who help the criminal process run smoothly. These include court clerks, bailiffs who help keep order in the court, court transcribers or interpreters, administrative workers, and defense attorneys (either private attorneys or court-appointed public defenders). There are also personnel who function as part of corrections when defendants are convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, as well as parole and probation officers who oversee supervised release. Depending on the case, there may also be media and members of the public who attend court proceedings or a trial.
While these parties are critical to the functioning of our criminal justice system, it is often criminal defense attorneys representing accused individuals who play the greatest role in ensuring courts and all personnel operate in accordance to the law. Our attorneys at Joey Gilbert Law know we play an invaluable role in the system of checks and balances, and in protecting the rights of our clients at every stage of the criminal process. That’s why we are committed to fighting on their behalves through independent review and investigation, jury selection, negotiations, and more. To learn more about the criminal law process or to discuss a potential case with an award-winning Reno criminal defense attorney from our firm, call (775) 574-4774 24/7 for a FREE consultation.