Circuit Criminal

This division handles felony criminal matters and misdemeanor appeals from the Montgomery County District Court and the City of Montgomery Municipal Court. In this section, we will provide information about the criminal process, a glossary of common terms used in the criminal division, access to the courts docket and how to find your attorney. Should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to call our office at (334) 832-1260.

Cases bound over to the grand jury: If a person is arrested on a felony warrant and does not ask for a preliminary hearing, the case is automatically bound over to the grand jury after 30 days. If there is a preliminary hearing held, the judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to bind the case to the grand jury. Being bound over to the grand jury means that the grand jury will make a determination as to whether there is sufficient probable cause to warrant further criminal proceedings.

The Criminal Process: The criminal process involves several steps. The first step being a criminal investigation and the last being either a dismissal of the charges or a conviction and sentence. Below is a list of the steps in a criminal process:

  1. INVESTIGATION - typically done by a law enforcement. The purpose is to gather evidence to identify a suspect and to support an arrest.
  2. ARREST - involves taking a person into custody who is suspected of committing a crime. The person is usually held until they can be presented before the court or allowed to make a bond and appear before a court to answer a criminal charge.
  3. PROSECUTION - the institution and conducting of legal proceedings against someone in respect of a criminal charge. This process is done by either the district attorney or the attorney general's office. They have the duty of determining whether to charge a person with a crime by weighing many factors involved in a case.
  4. INDICTMENT - is presented after the grand jury has heard the evidence presented and feels that a true bill can be returned against an individual. An indictment is a charge which must be proved at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
  5. ARRAIGNMENT - consists of reading the indictment to the accused and asking whether they plead guilty or not guilty to the charges.
  6. PRETRIAL DETENTION AND/OR BAIL - detention is when the accused is in custody prior to trial or the accused is released from custody on bail to show up in court when dates are set.
  7. PLEA BARGAINING - an agreement reached through negotiations between defense attorney and prosecutor. Generally, this means the accused agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a charge or sentence reduction.
  8. TRIAL/ADJUDICATION OF GUILT - a trial can be held by either a judge being the trier of fact (bench trial) or jury (jury trial). The standard of evidence for a conviction in a criminal case is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  9. SENTENCING - can consist of a fine, probation and/or a period of incarceration in a correction institution. Incarceration can be either in the county jail or department of correction. Probation can either be supervised by a probation officer or by the court.
  10. APPEALS - when either party is dissatisfied with the outcome of a case, an appeal can be filed so the case can be heard by a higher court.

DOCKET: Each judge in Circuit Criminal sets their own individual docket. If a case is set on the docket, the defendant should contact their attorney to discuss their case with them. Once an attorney is appointed or retained, all notices of court dates will be sent to that attorney. Also, any other information about a case will be sent to the attorney, such as discovery. Because discovery is not a part of the clerk's record, it must be obtained through the attorney appointed or retained in the case.

ACQUITTAL:  A judgment given by a judge or jury declaring a person not guilty of a charge.

ARRAIGNMENT: Reading of charges in the arrest documents and demand of whether there is a guilty or not guilty plea. This type hearing may be combined with a right to counsel hearing.

BAIL: Bonding company, property or money given as surety that a person released from custody will return at an appointed time.

CONCURRENT SENTENCE: An imposed sentence upon a defendant to be served at the same time as another imposed sentence. 

CONSECUTIVE SENTENCE: Separate sentences (each additional to the others) imposed upon a defendant who has been convicted for several distinct offenses; one of such sentences being made to begin at the expiration of another.

DISCOVERY:  Information relevant to the case which is held or known by the other party. Discovery is given to the attorney of record in a criminal case from the district attorney, but is not part of the Circuit Clerk's criminal file.

DISMISSAL: An order disposing of an action without a trial.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY:  A subsequent prosecution and punishment for an offense which has already been prosecuted. Double jeopardy is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which provides that no person shall "be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."

EXPUNGEMENT OF RECORD: Process by which record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed after court order to do so as permitted by statute.

GRAND JURY: A jury of inquiry whose duty is to receive complaints and accusations in criminal cases, hear evidence adduced on the part of the state, and determine whether probable cause exists that a crime has been committed and whether an indictment (true bill) should be returned against one for such a crime. If the grand jury determines that probable cause does not exist, it returns a "no bill."  A grand jury is an accusatory body and its function does not include a determination of guilt.

INDICTMENT:  A written accusation presented by a grand jury to the court in which it is impaneled, charging that a person therein named has done some act, or been guilty of some omission, which by law is a public offense.  An indictment is merely a charge which must be proved at trial beyond a reasonable doubt before a person may be convicted.

NOLLE PROSEQUI (Nolle Pros): A formal entry by the prosecutor in a criminal action, by which he declares that he "will no further prosecute" the case. It is the equivalent of a motion to dismiss without prejudice, permitting the prosecutor to refile the case at a later time.

PETITON: A formal written application to a court requesting judicial action in a certain matter.

PLEA: Statement made by the defendant either to his guilt or innocence to the charge made against him.

PROBATION: Allows a person to remain free under a suspension of a jail sentence during good behavior and generally under the supervision or guardianship of a probation officer together with other restrictions as the court may impose.

SPLIT SENTENCE:  The imposition of a sentence which allows a defendant to serve part of the sentence in confinement and the remainder on probation (suspended sentence) as permitted by statue.

SUSPENDED SENTENCE: Postponing the imposition of sentence upon a convicted person or postponing the execution of a sentence that has been imposed by the court. When the court suspends a sentence, it retains jurisdiction over the person and may later order the person to serve any part of, or all, of the suspended sentence.  When a sentence is suspended the person is usually placed on probation.

TRANSCRIPT: An official copy of the record of proceedings in a trial/hearing; word-for-word typing of everything that was said on the record during the trial/hearing.  Any party may request a transcript from the court reporter at a cost.