The word felony refers to a group of crimes that are considered to be the more serious and are distinguished from the lesser crimes called misdemeanors. In Mississippi the criminal justice system still uses the terms felony and misdemeanor, while other states have done away with the terms and classify crimes as Class A, B, C, ect. The kinds of crimes that are considered to be felonies include, but are not limited to murder, rape, arson, drug crimes, embezzlement, grand larceny and some repeat misdemeanors, such as a third offense for shoplifting or a third offense driving under the influence.HOW ARE FELONIES CHARGED?
In Mississippi a felony can only be returned by a Grand Jury. A Grand Jury is a group of citizens from a County who are summoned to the Courthouse just like a Petit jury, or trial jury, and who are given an oath and the responsibility to inquire into crimes that have been committed in the County. The Grand Jury does not determine guilt or innocence, they only decide if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the person charged committed the crime. No one generally appears for the accused citizen and he is not called by the Grand jury. If the Grand Jury finds probable cause, they will return a True Bill or as it is commonly called, an Indictment. The Indictment is not evidence of a crime and may not be introduced into evidence. It is merely the charging document that starts the formal criminal process in Circuit Court. In some instances citizens accused of felonies can waive their right to have an Indictment returned by a Grand Jury. When this is done it is often part of a plea bargain and the accused agrees to allow the prosecution to proceed forward on what is called an Information. This is simply an Affidavit, much like what is used in misdemeanor cases.IS A GRAND JURY INDICTMENT THE FIRST STEP IN A FELONY?
The answer to this question is yes and no. A accused citizen charged with a felony can only have his charges presented in Circuit Court by way of Indictment unless the accused waives Indictment and agrees to allow the Prosecution to proceed by Information. However, charges are often brought against a person prior to a Grand jury Indictment. In the usual scenario law enforcement authorities respond to information of a crime and begin their investigation. The results of that investigation often focuses one or more persons. If the law enforcement officials arrest a person(s), they do this based on probable cause to believe they committed the crime. They can arrested with or without a warrant. Though a warrant is preferred in the law, in many instances it is not practicable for the law enforcement officials to obtain a warrant, such as a crime in progress, so they take the offender into custody. Once the person is arrested he will be taken to jail to await his first appearance before a Judge.
If you have found yourself on the wrong side of the law and are facing criminal charges, please contact the experienced criminal defense firm at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC today to schedule a confidential meeting.