The processing of adult criminal offenders follows a strictly imposed chronology and while for most it may seem like the state holds all the cards when it comes to criminal trials and procedures, defendants do have certain rights that are non-negotiable. Here is a look at how the laws of Wyoming are used to handle criminal offenders.
Taken into custody
Although some people believe that arrests can only be effected when the cops are working under the provisions of an active warrant from WY, others believe that the police can make arrests as and when they want. Both of these assumptions are party correct. Yes, the Criminal Code of Wyoming does allow police officers to make arrests without outstanding warrants. However, this can only be done in felonious matters or when a police officer has witnessed the commissioning of a misdemeanor.
On the other hand, although it takes some work to procure an arrest warrant from the court, this is the preferred option for the sheriff's office since its deputies get additional liberties while serving these orders. In any case, the point of arrest can be considered the beginning of the criminal procedure.
A detainee cannot be held indefinitely
Upon arrests, all defendants enjoy Miranda Rights which have to be read to them by the officer in charge. This body of laws protects the arrestee from self-crimination by way of confession, if this has been given accidentally or extracted under duress. After being escorted to the police precinct, the fingerprints and mug shots of the accused will be taken for storage in the arrest records database.
As per the rules of the state, the accused has to be presented in court for a bail hearing within 48 hours of being arrested. This step is bypassed when the crime is not serious. Usually, the defendant will be released with a citation to appear in court or the bond amount will be collected if bail has been set on the arrest warrant.
The magistrate will explain the criminal charges to the accused
The arraignment will typically be held immediately after arrests in case of misdemeanors and will usually be coupled with the bail hearing. However, if the matter is a felony, the defendant will go through an initial appearance where the charges will be read out and explained to the accused along with his rights.
Except for felonies, in all other cases, the plea is entered into at this point. A preliminary hearing where the evidence is studied again to ascertain probable cause will be held unless a grand jury returns the indictment against the defendant. If the accused is held in custody, the preliminary hearing will be held in 10 days of being arrested while for those out on bail, the preliminary hearing will take place within 20 days of arrest.
Plea bargaining: A negotiation to save the judiciary some time
Most criminal cases in Wyoming are sorted through plea bargaining or the current judicial structure would come under tremendous pressure. This is a deal reached between the defense and the prosecution in which the latter agrees to not go to trial and go for the guilty plea in return for lesser charges and consequently a lighter sentence.
At the trial both sides are given the chance to put their point across
Felony cases will be heard by a panel of 12 jurors while misdemeanor charges are handled by a 6 member jury. The defense can waive the right to be tried by a jury and go for a trial held before the judge. In case of the former, the verdict comes unanimously from the jurors while the judge decides on the guilt of the accused in the latter.
In both scenarios, if the defendant is found guilty, it is the judge who delivers the sentence. This is done after due consideration of the pre-sentencing report which analyzes the circumstances in which the offense was commissioned, the crime history of the accused and the risk that the offender poses to the victim and the society.