At a misdemeanor arraignment in County Court, the defendant will be given a chance to enter a plea to the charge: plead guilty, plead not guilty, or plead no contest. If he pleads guilty or no contest, the Judge may sentence him on the spot or may reschedule the case for a sentencing date, which will give the probation department time to prepare a pre-sentence report including background information about the defendant and the crime, make a sentencing recommendation, etc. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference.
In traffic and non-traffic misdemeanor cases, this
is the defendant's second court appearance. It is a scheduled meeting
between an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and the defendant (or his attorney)
to determine whether the case will go to trial or be resolved with a plea.
These meetings focus on resolving the case short of trial. The Judge
and witnesses are not involved in misdemeanor pre-trial conferences.
If a plea bargain is going to be offered by the Prosecutor, it is done
Many other events can occur prior to trial.
Depending on the nature of the case, there may be pre-trial hearings on
Constitutional issues (confessions, searches, identification, etc.).
The issues are presented to the Court through written "motions" (e.g.,
Motion to Suppress Evidence, etc.). The judge must determine whether
evidence will be admitted or suppressed at the defendant's trial, whether
there is some legal reason why the defendant should not be tried, or decide
other ground rules for trial.