In Mississippi’s Hinds County — the state’s most populous county and home to Jackson, the state capital — thousands of people arrested each year on felony criminal charges can move through as many as three different courts. The Marshall Project - Jackson tapped experts and reviewed court rules to answer common questions about the process.
- What rights does a person have after arrest?
- What happens after someone has been arrested on a felony, or serious criminal charge, in Hinds County?
- What happens at an initial appearance?
- Where is the initial appearance held?
- Will a defendant get an attorney at the initial appearance hearing?
- Is there a public defender for the county?
- What happens if a person is arrested by an agency other than the Jackson city police?
- What makes the Capitol Complex court different?
- Where is the Capitol Complex Improvement District located?
- What if someone is arrested outside of Jackson and the Capitol Complex district?
- Can a defendant be released from jail before trial?
- How does a defendant get a bond?
- What if the defendant released on bond does not show up in court?
- What does the judge base a bond decision on?
- What happens if an arrested person cannot afford to pay the bond?
- How does a judge decide if someone gets a public defender?
- Will the arrested person always see a judge within 48 hours?
- What happens after the initial appearance?
- What is a preliminary hearing?
- What does “bound over to the grand jury” mean?
- What is an indictment?
- When will a grand jury act?
- What happens after an indictment?
- What will my lawyer do after an indictment is issued?
- Who are the felony court judges of Hinds County?
- Who do the prosecutors work for?
- What can happen before the start of a trial?
- Have a question we didn’t answer?
A defendant has a constitutional right to remain silent. This means someone under arrest can refuse to speak with police or to speak to police only with their lawyer present.
Also, a defendant has the right to call a lawyer, and anyone who cannot afford to hire a private attorney also has the right to have a lawyer provided for them by the court free of charge.What happens after someone has been arrested on a felony, or serious criminal charge, in Hinds County?
Mississippi court rules require that the arrested person see a judge within 48 hours if that person is jailed. The court hearing is called the “initial appearance.”What happens at an initial appearance?
A judge generally determines whether a defendant is eligible to be released from jail while waiting for a criminal case to move through the legal system. The judge may require that a defendant follow certain requirements to be released from jail.Where is the initial appearance held?
Where an initial appearance takes place depends on which law enforcement agency made the arrest and where the arrest happened. People arrested within the city limits of Jackson by the Jackson Police Department typically have an initial appearance at the Jackson Municipal Court at 327 East Pascagoula St.Will a defendant get an attorney at the initial appearance hearing?
The judge should determine whether the defendant can afford an attorney. If the judge determines someone is too poor to afford a private practice attorney, the judge should appoint a lawyer at the county’s expense.Is there a public defender for the county?
If someone is arrested in Jackson or Hinds County and cannot afford an attorney, that person will likely be represented by the Hinds County Public Defender’s Office. The Public Defender’s Office, which has no website, can be reached at 601-948-2683.What happens if a person is arrested by an agency other than the Jackson city police?
People arrested within the city limits of Jackson by the Capitol Police go to Hinds County Court, located in the Hinds County Courthouse at 407 East Pascagoula St., for their initial appearances.
As of January 2024, state law requires that people arrested on felony charges by Capitol Police would have their initial appearance before a newly created court, the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court, usually just called the “CCID court.” Federal litigation related to the CCID is ongoing, and state officials have not said when they believe the new court will begin operating. No judges have been appointed yet.What makes the Capitol Complex court different?
Unlike all other judges in the state, who are elected by the voters, the new district court judges are appointed by the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court.Where is the Capitol Complex Improvement District located?
The CCID refers to the area within Jackson and around the Capitol where Capitol Police have jurisdiction (see map here). A lawsuit in federal court is attempting to block the creation of this Capitol Complex court. The lawsuit claims that the new court unconstitutionally undermines the power of Black voters in Jackson to have a say in the election of local judges and prosecutors.What if someone is arrested outside of Jackson and the Capitol Complex district?
People arrested by the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office outside the cities in Hinds County will typically also have an initial appearance at the Hinds County Court.
There are several smaller cities in Hinds County as well. People arrested in the city of Clinton go to the municipal court there and, if they can’t afford their attorney, are represented by the Hinds County Public Defender’s Office. In the city of Byram, initial appearances for felony defendants also occur in the city’s municipal court, with a city public defender available.Can a defendant be released from jail before trial?
Yes, but the judge can also specify any number of release conditions or restrictions. These are often called “bail conditions.”
For example, a judge may simply require that a person promise to appear at all future court appearances. A judge may require that the defendant not travel outside the county where they live, that they avoid certain places or people, or that they periodically report back to court.
However, the judge might instead decide a defendant must pay money in advance of release, typically called a “bond.”How does a defendant get a bond?
Many people will use a bonding company, commonly called a “bondsman.” A person pays the bonding company a certain amount of money, typically 10% of the full amount set by the judge. The bonding company then agrees to pay the full amount if that person fails to show up for a court date.What if the defendant released on bond does not show up in court?
A defendant would be subject to arrest plus risk losing the bond. The defendant could also be jailed pending the outcome of the case.What does the judge base a bond decision on?
The seriousness of the charge, prior criminal history, ties to the local community and the recommendations, if any, of the arresting officer or the county prosecutor may all play a role in the release conditions ordered by a judge.
However, judges have virtually unlimited discretion over bond decisions and those judges may not always explain the reasons for their decisions.What happens if an arrested person cannot afford to pay the bond?
Defendants have the right to contact their attorney or public defender. The lawyer may file a motion to ask the judge to reconsider and set a lower bond.How does a judge decide if someone gets a public defender?
There is no set income threshold in Mississippi. A judge will typically look at a defendant’s income, monthly expenses, debts, and any assets, such as property, to decide whether to appoint a public defender. Because there are no statewide eligibility rules, different judges use different standards when evaluating whether someone qualifies for appointed counsel. Judges may ask a defendant to complete a written form that asks financial questions. Other judges may simply ask defendants in court about their finances.Will the arrested person always see a judge within 48 hours?
This rule doesn’t apply to people not being held in jail. An arrest warrant, for example, might already contain written bail conditions. This means a defendant could be allowed to post bond immediately or shortly after an arrest without needing to see a judge.What happens after the initial appearance?
The defense attorney might file a motion to transfer the felony case to the Hinds County Court. The public defender’s office does this for several reasons, including for defendants who can’t pay their initial bond set by the municipal judge. Once in county court, public defenders can ask a judge there to reconsider the bond amount and lower it.
Public defenders may also transfer a case to County Court for defendants charged with serious crimes. At the County Court, the defense lawyer can request a preliminary hearing.What is a preliminary hearing?
State officials at the public hearing must show enough evidence to convince a judge that “probable cause” exists to support the charge or charges. “Probable cause” is a lower threshold of proof than what is required for a conviction in a jury trial.
Prosecutors will typically show the minimum evidence they believe is required to convince a judge that probable cause exists.
A defense attorney will have the opportunity to question any witness that testifies for the prosecutor. A defendant may also call their own witnesses or introduce other evidence.
At the end of a preliminary hearing, if a judge believes there is probable cause that someone committed a crime, then the judge will order that person bound over to the grand jury.What does “bound over to the grand jury” mean?
It means the case can keep moving forward, but only after a prosecutor gets an indictment from a grand jury.What is an indictment?
An indictment is an official accusation by a grand jury that moves a felony case toward trial. Grand juries are composed of citizens and meet several times a year to consider dozens of cases presented to them by prosecutors. A grand jury, which meets in secret, has the option of returning an indictment or not issuing an indictment. A grand jury usually only hears evidence presented by the prosecutor. Defense lawyers are not allowed to attend the hearing.When will a grand jury act?
There is no time limit for a grand jury to hear a case. An indictment could occur a year, or even more, after an arrest.What happens after an indictment?
The case moves to the Circuit Court until a final resolution in the case is reached. There are four circuit judges in Hinds County. All four judges are elected by Hinds County voters.What will my lawyer do after an indictment is issued?
A defense attorney will request all of the state’s evidence from the prosecutor. A judge will set a trial date, where a jury or judge will determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty of the charge or charges.Who are the felony court judges of Hinds County?
The Circuit Court has four judges. The judges are each elected to four-year terms in nonpartisan elections. They are:Who do the prosecutors work for?
The Office of the Hinds County District Attorney oversees nearly all criminal prosecutions in the county. The office is headed by District Attorney Jody E. Owens II, a Democrat in his second four-year term as of January 2024.What can happen before the start of a trial?
The prosecutor may offer a plea deal, which usually means the prosecutor agrees to seek a less severe punishment or drop some of the charges in exchange for a guilty plea to one or more of the charges.
On the other hand, if a defense attorney believes the charges lack evidence or otherwise are not supported by the law, the defense attorney can ask a judge to dismiss the charges.Have a question we didn’t answer?
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