The 71A District Court processes misdemeanor cases, including traffic misdemeanors, from arraignment through sentencing, and felony cases from arraignment through preliminary examination.
Criminal misdemeanors carry a maximum penalty of one year or less in the county jail. Felonies and high misdemeanors carry the maximum penalty of more than one year in prison.
All criminal cases begin with your arraignment by a District Court Magistrate. At the arraignment you are advised of the charges filed against you and the maximum penalties if convicted. The Court explains your rights to you and sets your next court date. The Magistrate then determines if you are eligible to be released on bond, and if so, the type of bond and the amount. Conditions will also be attached to your bond.
For those charged with a misdemeanor, their next court date will be a pretrial conference before a District Court Judge. You will have a chance to meet with the prosecuting official before appearing before the Judge. At the pretrial conference you will have an opportunity to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty or no contest). IF you are unable to afford your own attorney, you may request a court appointed attorney from the Judge at your pretrial. If a not guilty plea is entered, it will be set for a trial date with a settlement conference the day before. If you plead guilty or no contest or if you are found guilty by the court, you will be sentenced by that District Court Judge. Sentencing may be done at the time of plea or you may be given a date to return to the Court for sentencing.
For those charged with a felony, or a high misdemeanor, their next court date will be a preliminary conference before a District Court Judge. You will have a chance to meet with the prosecuting official before appearing before the Judge. At the preliminary conference you will have an opportunity to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty or no contest). In felony cases, you can request a court appointed attorney at your arraignment. If an attorney is appointed to represent you, he or she will be present for the preliminary conference. If a not guilty plea is entered, a date will be set for a preliminary examination. At the preliminary examination, the prosecuting official will present their case against you. If the District Court Judge decides there is sufficient evidence to show you have committed the crime for which you have been charged, the case will be bound over to the 40th Circuit Court. Your next court date will be a Circuit Court arraignment. The case file is sent to Circuit Court where it is given a new case number. At this point, all questions should be directed to the Circuit Court.