Charged with a felony in DC Superior Court

So you’ve been charged with a felony in DC Superior Court. What happens next?

The DC Superior Court operates much like the federal jurisdiction and the bail laws are very similar to the bail laws of the Federal Courts. There are a multitude of holds that can be placed on an individual going through the criminal justice system with a felony.


In the District of Columbia, if you are arrested for a felony that is not an original grand jury, you will see a judge within 48 hours, most often within 24 hours. In DC this is called filing and you are charged per complaint. Your attorney will waive the formal arraignment and request a preliminary hearing. The judge in the arraignment court, also known as courtroom C10, will determine whether to retain you or release you on parole. Whether you are detained is based on a number of factors, such as whether you are on probation, probation, or have a pending case. If you are on probation, probation, or have a pending case, you could be detained for 5 days; and subsequently, he will have his preliminary hearing and/or detention hearing. If he is accused of a violent and dangerous crime, or if he did not appear in court frequently, he could be detained for 3 days; and subsequently, have a preliminary hearing and/or detention hearing.

preliminary hearing

After the arraignment, you will have your preliminary hearing usually before a magistrate judge in the DC Superior Court. There are two issues at the preliminary hearing and/or detention hearing that will be paramount to you.

(1) Is there probable cause that you committed the crime?

(2) If there is probable cause, should I be released?

At this time, you will need an experienced attorney to properly air all the facts and your ties to the community for your release.

After the preliminary hearing, the case will be pending for the grand jury to determine whether there is probable cause that he committed the crime.

grand jury

The Fifth Amendment guarantees that no person will be prosecuted for “a capital or otherwise infamous crime” unless indicted by a grand jury. Court rules and DC Code require a grand jury to consider evidence for any crime that carries a possible penalty of more than one year. Therefore, all felony cases must go before a grand jury unless the defendant waives the right to indictment. The grand jury may consist of sixteen to twenty-three members. Twelve or more jurors must agree to return an indictment.

status hearing

If you are held after the detention hearing, the court will schedule a status hearing usually within 30 days to determine the position of the case with the Grand Jury. Also at this time, the court may ask if plea negotiations are taking place. Remember that your attorney has a duty to investigate, consult, and prepare your case so that you can make an informed decision whether to plead guilty or go to trial. You have an absolute right to know if a guilty plea has been offered.

trial by jury

If you do not accept the government’s plea offer, you will have a jury trial in which twelve members of your community will decide beyond a reasonable doubt whether you committed the crime.


If you lose the trial or plead guilty, you will have a sentencing hearing within 2 months. The reason it takes months is because the court does a pre-sentence investigation where a probation officer makes a recommendation to the court as to what sentence he should receive based on background and social information. Your lawyer at this time can present letters of character and other elements that demonstrate his good character.

This has been a simplistic explanation of a felony through the DC Superior Court, but please note that this is a rough outline and you should seek out an experienced attorney to guide you through this process.

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