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The Prosecution Stage

Prosecuting Authority

The agency responsible for prosecuting a crime depends on a couple of factors. The following table illustrates the general division of authority. Certain misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses do not always fall within the general rule. For a more detailed explanation of responsibility for certain misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors, contact House Research.

Offense Level Prosecuting Authority
Misdemeanors City Attorney
Gross Misdemeanors - Metro Counties City Attorney
Gross Misdemeanors - Nonmetro Counties County Attorney
Felonies County Attorney
Certain Specified Offenses (i.e., racketeering) Attorney General (concurrent authority with county attorney)

Note: A county attorney may also provide city attorney services by contract. Also, the attorney general may assist or assume a prosecution at the request of a county attorney.

Steps in the Prosecution

After a crime is committed and a person is charged, the person has a first appearance. The person is told of the nature of the charges, advised of certain rights, given an opportunity to request a public defender (if he or she cannot afford an attorney), and, if the person is in custody, bail is set.

Following a defendant's first appearance, the prosecution is required to disclose the evidence it has to the defendant or to the defendant's attorney. The defendant is also required to disclose evidence he or she intends to introduce and certain other information relating to the defense (such as whether the defendant intends to utilize an alibi defense). This exchange of information is called discovery.

After discovery there is commonly an omnibus hearing when multiple motions, frequently relating to evidentiary issues, can be brought and heard. Occasionally there may be other or additional hearings between the omnibus hearing a plea hearing or a trial.

If the defendant does not plead guilty, the case proceeds to trial. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty at trial, he or she is sentenced.

October 2002

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