Idaho Criminal Defense and DUI Defense Blog

Idaho Criminal Case Process

Posted by William Young | May 30, 2018 | 2 Comments

Idaho Criminal Lawyer

I found this useful information on the 4th Judicial District Court Website ( and thought I would share.

Idaho Criminal Case: The Process

A criminal case is one in which an individual is accused of conduct that has potentially damaged society. There are two main types of criminal cases: misdemeanors and felonies. A misdemeanor is a charge punishable by a fine or imprisonment in the county jail. A felony is a charge potentially punishable by incarceration in the state penitentiary. Misdemeanors are tried by magistrate judges in the magistrate division of the district court, and felonies are tried by district judges.

Generally, criminal cases are initiated by the filing of a complaint based either on a police investigation or a citizen's accusation. A complaint is the document that sets forth a formal charge against the defendant. It is signed by the victim or other accuser, and the person signing the complaint must show reason or probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the offense. Once a complaint has been filed, the court may issue either a warrant for the arrest of the person charged or a summons requiring the person charged to appear before the court at a specified time. A warrant of arrest authorizes any police officer to take the person named on the warrant into custody in order that the person may be brought before the court to answer the charges in the complaint.

After a defendant has been arrested or summoned to appear on a criminal charge, he/she must appear before the court. The first appearance is a hearing in which the defendant is advised of his/her rights and the procedure that will be followed. If the defendant does not have an attorney at that time, he/she is given an opportunity to obtain one if desired. If the defendant cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court will consider whether or not to appoint an attorney to represent the defendant after determining the defendant's financial situation. Though often referred to as an arraignment, a first appearance is a separate court event. A defendant charged with a felony may not enter a plea at the first appearance but must do so at the arraignment. This first appearance always takes place in the magistrate court. In misdemeanor cases, the first appearance and arraignment are combined so that the magistrate judge proceeds to take the defendant's plea and sets the case for trial if necessary.

In felony cases, the defendant must determine if he/she desires a preliminary hearing. If the defendant requests a preliminary hearing, one is set within the time limits prescribed by law; however, a defendant may waive these time requirements if he/she desires.

A preliminary hearing is held only on felony cases and is conducted before a magistrate judge. At this hearing, the prosecuting attorney presents what evidence he/she may have to show that there is probable cause (reason) to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed the crime. If the prosecutor convinces the judge with that information, the defendant is "bound over"; that is to say, the case is referred to the district court for further action. If the prosecutor does not make an adequate showing at the preliminary hearing, the magistrate judge may dismiss the case or the charge may be reduced to a less serious offense, and the defendant will be sentenced accordingly.

If a defendant is bound over to the district court on a felony charge, he/she must then appear for arraignment before a district judge. At the arraignment in district court, the defendant is again advised of his/her rights and of the procedures the court will follow from that time forward. It is at this stage of the proceeding that the felony defendant may enter a plea. It is also the point that bond will be set for the defendant if it was not set at the probable cause hearing. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the court will set the case for trial.

If the defendant goes to trial and is found not guilty, he/she is released, and the previously set bond is exonerated or returned to the person who posted the bond. If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty, the next step is to order a presentence investigation. This is done in almost all felony cases and in a large number of serious misdemeanor matters.

A presentence report is prepared by an investigator assigned to a case. It details important information about the defendant that will assist the judge in determining the sentence. A copy of the presentence investigation report is made available to the defendant, the defendant's attorney, and the prosecutor. By Administrative Court Rule 32, presentence reports are confidential and may not be disclosed to other parties or agencies except by court order. The presentence report contains detailed information about the defendant's background, social history, and other issues of a private nature to the defendant. Once the court and the parties have have had an opportunity to review the presentence report, a sentencing hearing is held, at which time the judge pronounces the terms of the defendant's sentence.

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William Young

William Young - Idaho Criminal Defense, DUI Defense, and Trial Attorney


Douglas Arledge Reply

Posted Aug 04, 2023 at 20:01:00

I was reading where the [ Idaho Department of Corrections].is the agency that does [ PSI- REPORTS ] in Idaho… It amazes me how this isn’t a due process issue.. ( PSI investigators].are officers of the court and they gather information and first and foremost send that information to the Prosecutors… This is all done without giving the individual about his right of incriminating his self further… There is not an attorney present to monitor this situation… When the individual is sentenced to the Idaho Department of Corrections certain rights are lost… However in this case the individual has not been sentenced and I believe is entitled to the same rights as [ Miranda].and Due process violations are not kept intact… This needs looked into: This wold be a ground breaking… Idaho is known for locking people up for money and Idaho supports ( PRISONS FOR PROFIT) … The system is being manipulated to lock people up… There is one more thing (psi-reports) cost Defendants $100.00 which goes into a bank account for: Idaho Department of Corrections: This is Corruption at its finest…
Sincerely, Douglas Ray Arledge…

William Young Reply

Posted Aug 07, 2023 at 13:25:30

Thank you for your comment. Some of what you say is true and I would love to see changes made to the current system. However, some of your assertions are based upon false information.

The primary purpose of a PSI is to provide the judge with information that may help them in crafting an appropriate sentence in the case. For the most part this is information about the defendant that the judge wouldn’t otherwise have. This includes criminal history, job history, family history, addiction or mental health issues, financial information, a statement by the defendant, letters of support for the defendant, and any mitigating information the defendant thinks is important for the judge to have. It is a summary of the defendant’s life all contained within 7-12 typed pages – the good and the bad. The PSI also includes a LSI-R score (a statistical score intended to predict the likelihood of reoffense) and a recommendation made by the investigator as to whether the defendant is a good candidate for probation. Sometimes this information is harmful to the Defendant but sometimes it is very helpful. As a defense attorney I see cooperation with the PSI process as an opportunity for most of my clients. I want the judge to see every client as an individual and every case as unique. The PSI is often the best method for achieving this and there is almost always something positive I can use from the PSI to argue in favor of leniency.

Participation with the PSI process is always voluntary. The court can not order someone to participate. While many plea deals require participation with the PSI process as a term of acceptance, a Defendant can always refuse to participate – this just opens the door to the prosecution withdrawing from the terms of any plea offer they made. As a discretionary decision, some judges will not consider ordering probation in cases where someone does not participate in the PSI process. Their justification for this is that they can not properly assess the defendant’s risk to the community without the information that a PSI provides.

Defendant’s maintain their right to remain silent during the PSI process as well as their right to have an attorney present during the interview. As indicated above, defendant’s participation in the PSI process is voluntary – they can share as little or as much information with the investigator as they choose. The PSI process does include the defendant’s account of what took place during the crime. However, a PSI is only completed after the defendant has already plead guilty and it typically does not include questions about other crimes the defendant may have committed (other than those they have previously been prosecuted for). This means that there is little to no risk of incriminating themselves further. If for some reason this did become an issue, they could always refuse to answer. While defendants rarely request their attorneys presence during the interview, they always have the ability to make this request.

There are many things I would change about the PSI process if I could but most of it would be centered around who conducts the investigation and how they come to their conclusions.

Thank you again for your comment.

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