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General Court Procedures

Limited jurisdiction courts usually process criminal cases as follows:

1. Initial appearance - this is the first appearance in court by the defendant, and the defendant is advised of the charges.  The judge appoints an attorney if the defendant cannot afford one.

2. Arraignment - The defendant appears in court to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.  Many limited jurisdiction courts combine the initial appearance and the arraignment.

3. Trial - If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial is held.  The judge - or at the request of the defendant, a jury - can hear evidence on the charges and find the defendant guilty or not guilty.

4. Sentencing - If the defendant is found guilty, the court imposes the appropriate punishment.

5. Appeals - Appeals decisions of limited jurisdiction courts go to Superior Court.  An appeal may be heard as a new trial (a trial de novo), or the Superior Court judge may review records of trial proceedings if records have been kept.  Decisions made in small claims court cannot be appealed.

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