The criminal procedure of Mississippi is the part of the state's legal framework that has been designed to handle adult offenders. Despite being accused of criminal transgressions, suspects do have certain procedural rights which are guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Although the exact process followed for trying criminals may vary from one state to another, care is taken to ensure that the local laws do not infringe upon these constitutional rights.
What are your rights after being arrested?
Miranda Rights have become quite popular given their depiction in most crime shows and movies involving the cop theme. These require police officers to warn arrestees of the fact that they do have the right to remain silent, meaning we cannot force a confession out of you, and that anything that the accused says will be treated as evidence against him.
It is also imperative to understand here that police cannot just apprehend people on a whim. They need to have concrete proof in their hands to effect the arrest of a person. Usually, cops prefer to go with a MS arrest warrant because the judge rules on probable cause when issuing such orders. This means that the office of the sheriff cannot be held responsible for compromising the rights of the alleged offender.
Is everybody entitled to bail?
All accused regardless of the gravity of their criminal infractions do have the right to apply for bail; however, whether release will be granted or not is left up to the judiciary. Generally, the magistrate will consider the criminal history of the defendant and any instances in his background of disobeying court diktats before the suspect is freed.
As far as the bail amount is concerned, this is based on the nature of the crime; the more heinous the act, the higher will be the bail amount. In fact, bail is usually denied when the matter pertains to homicide and rape.
Arraignments and pleas: how do these work?
It is up to defense whether to go for an arraignment or simply enter a 'not guilty' plea. At the arraignment hearing the accused files a plea which can be guilty, not guilty or no contest. The court will advise the defendant of the charges being brought against him and ask if he has legal representation.
The plea bargains!
Almost 90% of the criminal cases never go to trial but are instead settled through plea arrangements. This is a deal reached between the lawyers of both sides in keeping with which the defendant pleads "no contest" or guilty in return for a lesser sentence or plea for a low serious offense.
The preliminary and grand jury hearings
Only offenders who are being held in police custody are offered a preliminary hearing in which a judge rules on probable cause. On the other hand, a grand jury hearing is held for all types of felonious matters. Once again in this hearing, the judiciary tries to determine if the evidence held by the state is enough to nail the crime on the alleged offender.
If the grand jury finds that there is probable cause against the accused, they return the indictment after which the defendant is bound over to the justice court. The suspect can waive the right to a grand jury hearing and choose to proceed on information alone which is a formal charge document.
The trial proper ad sentencing
All felony cases are hard by a 12 member jury panel and their verdict has to be unanimous. In contrast, misdemeanor cases are generally heard in municipal courts and these are decided upon by 6 jurors. While the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty, the sentencing is left to the magistrate. If the offender is found guilty, the judge must consider the guidelines for sentencing for the specific offense type and the pre- sentence investigation report before sentencing the criminal.