Trial Proceedings

Misdemeanor Arraignment


            A defendant’s first appearance before a judge is the arraignment. At the arraignment every defendant will be informed of the constitutional rights that all criminal defendants have. At the arraignment a defendant will be told by the magistrate judge what the charge is and what the penalties for it are. The defendant at an arraignment for a misdemeanor offense is also given the chance to enter a plea to the charge. Idaho recognizes only two pleas, guilty and not guilty.

             If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge may proceed to sentencing then and there. Or the judge may set sentencing for a later date; this usually is done when the defendant needs to get an evaluation or some issue such as restitution needs to be determined prior to sentencing.

             If a defendant pleads not guilty, the judge will ask if the defendant wants a trial in front of a jury or a trial in front of a judge only. At a jury trial the judge presides over the trial but a six-person jury decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. At a court trial where there is just the judge and no jury, the judge presides over the case and also considers the evidence and determines whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

             If a jury trial is chosen, there will usually be either two or three more court dates set. The first will be the pre-trial conference: the defendant, defense counsel if there is one, and the prosecutor all appear before the magistrate judge assigned to the case. The purpose of the pre-trial conference is to see if the case can be resolved short of trial or, if it cannot, to make sure that both the defense and the prosecution are ready for trial,

            The second court date when a jury trial is chosen is the jury trial status call. It is held on the first court day of the jury trial week. All the defendants and all the attorneys who still have cases set for jury trial that week are required to appear at the status call. It is an opportunity for last minute resolution of the case short of trial.

            Those cases that don’t resolve at the status call will be assigned a third court date---the jury trial day--- by the judge from among the remaining days of the jury trial week. The defendant, his or her attorney, and any defense witnesses will need to be in court on the jury trial day. The prosecutor and all prosecution witnesses need to be in court then, too. A six-person jury will have to be picked by the parties from a panel of prospective jurors on the morning of the trial day. Then the trial proceeds: first the jury is given preliminary instructions on the law, then the parties can make opening statements, then evidence is presented, starting with the prosecution evidence; following the submission of all evidence, additional instructions on the law are given to the jury; then the parties present closing arguments to the jury; then the jury retires to the jury room to deliberate and reach a verdict.

             If, on the other hand, a defendant at the misdemeanor arraignment waives the right to trial by jury and chooses to have a court trial (where there is just a judge and no jury), the next court date after the arraignment will usually be the trial itself. On the trial date the defendant, a defense attorney if there is one, the prosecutor, and all witnesses for both the prosecution and the defense need to be in court. Usually several court trials are set for the same afternoon. They will be tried one after the other, in whatever order the judge chooses to call them, until they have all been heard and decided that afternoon.

Pretrial 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 (and 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 here.

Pretrial Proceedings --- 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.

Misdemeanor Trial (Jury or Bench/Judge)

A trial is an adversary proceeding in which the Prosecutor must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence or to present any evidence, but may challenge the accuracy of the Prosecutor's evidence. Both the defendant and the Prosecutor (representing the People of the State of Idaho) have the right to a trial by a jury. Sometimes, both sides agree to let a Judge listen to the evidence and decide the case without a jury; this is called a "bench trial". In a jury trial, the jury is the "trier of fact"; in a bench trial, the judge is. After the evidence is presented, the judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime. Here is a general outline of the steps in a jury trial:

  1. residents of Kootenai County are randomly selected from a Secretary of State list of licensed drivers, and are summoned to the Court as potential jurors;
  2. a blind draw selects 14 people from that group in misdemeanors;
  3. the Judge, Prosecutor and defense attorney question the jurors about their backgrounds and beliefs (see voir dire);
  4. the attorneys are permitted a limited number of "peremptory" challenges to various jurors (or an unlimited number of challenges for good cause);
  5. after six acceptable jurors remain, the Judge administers an oath to the jury and reads basic instructions about the trial process, etc.;
  6. the Prosecutor gives an opening statement to outline his case and evidence to the jury;
  7. the defense may give a similar opening statement, or wait until later in the trial;
  8. the Prosecutor calls his witnesses, which the defense may cross examine;
  9. the People close their proofs;
  10. the defense may call witnesses, if it wants, and the Prosecutor may cross-examine them;
  11. the defense rests;
  12. the Prosecutor may present "rebuttal" witnesses/evidence to challenge evidence presented by the defendant during his proofs;
  13. the Prosecutor rests;
  14. the Prosecutor presents a closing summary to the jury;
  15. the defense attorney presents a closing summary to the jury;
  16. the Prosecutor may present a rebuttal argument to the jury to respond to the defendant's attorney's closing summary;
  17. the judge gives the jury detailed legal instructions about the charged crimes, the deliberation process, etc.;
  18. the jury deliberates and returns a verdict.
  19. if the jury finds the defendant guilty, the Court will impose sentence


Subpoena: A subpoena is a Court Order directing you to be present at the time and place stated. You will be personally served with your subpoena. Bring the subpoena with you when you go to court because it will assist the court in processing the witness fees the law entitles you to receive. It also reminds you which court you are required to appear in and the exact time of your appearance. After receiving the subpoena, immediately call the City Attorney's Office and ask for the deputy assigned to the case; his or her name will appear on the subpoena. This allows the deputy an opportunity to discuss with you the facts of the case and the nature of the proceedings in which you will testify. Keep in mind that it is perfectly proper for the deputy to discuss the case with you prior to the court date. 

Judgment and Sentencing

A Defendant will receive a copy of the Judgment which, sets forth the sentence. The Judgment is a court order and failure to follow every term could result in either contempt of court or a probation violation being filed. Any questions about a Judgment should be referred to an attorney (if you have one) or you can contact the Office of the City Attorney-Criminal Division.

Probation Violations

A violation of probation can lead to revocation of probation and the imposition of a custodial sentence. 
Consequences for the conviction of Probation Violation may potentially include:

  • Probation revoked and sentence imposed
  • Jail imposed
  • Significant fines
  • Probation reinstatement with additional terms including
  • Require a Substance Abuse Evaluation or a Domestic Violence Evaluation (if applicable)
  • Require treatment

Traffic and Non Traffic Infractions

This section is to give people a quick overview of how the infraction court system works.

  • Citation
    All infraction cases begin with the issuance of a uniform citation to the defendant. The uniform citation is a both a formal criminal complaint and a summons. On the citation, the defendant is given a date by which to schedule a court appearance or pay the citation.
  • First Appearance Before Court
    The defendant must appear at the clerk's office on the date set by Court. The purpose of this appearance is to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the citation. If the defendant fails to appear at the clerk's office to enter a plea, the court enters a guilty plea by default and sends notice to the defendant of their requirement to pay the fixed penalty. If the defendant appears at the clerk's office prior to or at the time set on the citation, they can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If they plead guilty they will be required to pay the fine within fourteen (14) days. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the court will provide the defendant with a date and time to appear at a pretrial conference.
  • Attorneys
    The defendant can have an attorney appear to defend them in an infraction case. Unlike felony and misdemeanor offenses, however, a defendant is not entitled to court-appointed counsel if they are indigent. Since no jail time can be imposed for an infraction in Idaho, a defendant is not entitled to court-appointed counsel in an infraction case.
  • Pretrial Conference
    The purpose of a pretrial conference is to bring the parties together to determine if they can reach a satisfactory resolution to the case. At the time of the Pretrial Conference, only the Prosecuting Attorney and the Court Clerk will be present, the Judge will not hear the Pretrial Conference discussion. If the defendant is pleading guilty to a charge, they will be required to pay the fine at that time. Any questions about payment of the fine or a payment plan should be discussed with the clerk. If the case cannot be resolved and needs to be set for a trial, the clerk will notify the defendant of the date of the trial.
  • Trial
    There is no right to a jury trial on an infraction case. All trials are decided by a magistrate judge. The judge calls the cases at his discretion. There is no first-come, first-served system on trial day.
  • Fixed Fines
    The fines for infraction offenses are fixed by court rule. The magistrate has no discretion to increase or decrease the fine if the defendant is found guilty. A list of the possible fines is set forth in Idaho Infraction Rule 9.
  • Assessment Of Points To Driving Records
    The judge does not have any control over the assessment of points to a defendant's driver's record upon conviction. Such points are assessed by the Idaho Department of Transportation.
  • Failure To Pay The Fine On Time
    The Idaho Department of Transportation will suspend a person's driver's license if they fail to pay the fine on an infraction within the required time. This will result in the defendant having to pay the fine and an administration fee in order to have their driving privileges reinstated.