Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court
Police are often called regarding Domestic Violence Cases. Domestic Violence is basically the equivalent of an assault and battery against a family member or household member. These and juvenile criminal charges, some protective orders, and violations of protective orders can be heard at this court. Trials and hearings at this court are often kept confidential. Of course, there may be exceptions such as when a misdemeanor is appealed to a higher court, if a felony is certified after a preliminary hearing, or if a juvenile is certified as an adult. Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is not a Court of Record. One of the consequences is that a party can appeal a misdemeanor ruling from this court and have it heard again at Circuit Court if done in a timely manner. The case will be heard from scratch just as if it had not been heard at all at the lower court. This does not take away from the importance of this Court. For at this Court – there are well-qualified judges, the same prosecutors, and real findings of innocence and guilt. A non-citizen convicted at this court can be prevented from becoming a citizen or be deported. This court has very real consequences. Defendants can win cases and perhaps the prosecutor will not appeal and the case is disposed of in its entirety. Some felonies are reduced to misdemeanors or dismissed. On the other hand, there are judgements which incarcerate adults and send children to shelters, detention facilities, and persons may be ruled against and ordered to participate in programs. This court has its purpose and its judgment can permanently change a person’s life. That is why it is so important to have an experienced attorney to represent one’s interest. Just like many other individuals who are educated and trained to fit their job description, the same applies to an attorney. It is the job of Sheryl Shane, Attorney at Law to be educated and familiar with the court system. Years of experience counts to help you.
General District Court
This Court does handle criminal, traffic, and civil matters. Regarding misdemeanor charges, one often sees cases involving Petty larceny, Marijuana charges, Assault and Battery, Prostitution, Bawdy house, DWI/DUI, Reckless Driving, Driving on a Revoked, Driving on a Suspended, Driving without a License, Hit and Run, Eluding, amongst others. There are also Felony cases which begin at this Court. Examples may include Possession and Distribution of Drugs (Controlled Substances), Grand Larceny, Embezzlement, Computer Crimes, Fraud, Malicious Wounding, and Robbery. Some Sex Crimes are started at the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court and some are initiated here depending on the charge. Sometimes the Felonies are resolved and at other times they are sent up to the higher Court. Having an experienced lawyer with a solid professional history is so important at this court. There are times in which persons attempt to represent themselves and accept pleas and programs without knowing the full consequences of their actions. They may not understand issues involving a dismissal with or without prejudice, the difference between a dismissal and an expungement, nor the immigration effect of accepting a court program. Convictions of this type can be life-altering. Hire a lawyer who will be frank with you about the whole procedure and consequences. This is not a time to forgo the best professional legal counseling. It is very important to have someone on your side who is not only knowledgeable and passionate but also to have someone who takes the time to help you achieve your goals.
Circuit Court – the Court of Record
This is the Court where a defendant is indicted and read Felony charges (may be certified from a lower court - or direct indictment) or misdemeanor charges which have been appealed. At this Court there are jury trials unlike at the lower courts. An exception may arise when both the Prosecution and the Defendant agree to waive a trial by Jury. Evidentiary and Suppression Motions are heard at this Court. There are Court reporters for the Felonies. Defendants may hire stenographers for the misdemeanors. Preserving evidence for appeal may be important. Usually – more discovery is provided by the Prosecution at this level. This can be interpreted as the Defense attorney having more access to the evidence. Sometimes it may be a good strategy to advance to this stage if the Defense feels there may be a lack of evidence on the side of the State. Other times it may backfire if a Commonwealth takes back an offer since the case was pushed too far. All these issues should be taken into account. That is why it wise to have a lawyer like Sheryl Shane who is familiar with the system.
Another consideration at Circuit Court is whether to have a jury or bench trial. Jury trials involve much more work than non-jury trials. For instance, for jury trials, instructions relating to the trial must be prepared by both sides and the Judge decides which to use if both sides cannot agree. The Lawyers and Judge Voire Dire the potential jurors (ask questions), and a certain amount are taken off the panel by both sides. A trial begins with opening statements by the parties. There are times the Defense may forgo opening statement since the prosecution has the burden of proof regarding the elements of the alleged crime(s). Next, the prosecution put their case on. Afterward, the Defense usually puts on a case unless Defense attorney has requested a Motion to Strike and won or for other strategic reasons. If a defendant decides against testifying, the jury should be instructed there is no presumption of guilt based on this failure to testify against oneself. After the evidence is presented by both sides, there are closing arguments. Next, the jury decides. If the jury finds guilt, there will be a subsequent separate trial where the jury determines punishment.
A few months later the Circuit Court judge rules on whether or not to follow the exact decision of the jury. Subsequently, motions may be made or an appeal may be filed. The ball is in the court of both the Prosecutor and Defense as to whether any further actions are necessary. The Judge may have his or her own agenda and schedule further acts or non-action.