Mississippi Court Records
What Do You Do If You Are On Trial For a Crime in Mississippi?
Every individual who has been arrested or summoned for criminal charges in Mississippi has the right to an attorney. If the individual cannot afford legal representation, the court is required to provide one. The attorney’s responsibilities include examining the case’s merits for dismissal, negotiating plea bargains, and representing the individual in court. Having an attorney is also useful when seeking to seal or expunge arrest records and court records that otherwise would have been publicly available—the attorney liaisons with law enforcement and the judiciary in all matters concerning the defendant.
What Percentage of Criminal Cases Goes to Trial in Mississippi?
According to Mississippi Courts Statistical Reports, the prosecutors filed over 25,000 cases in the circuit courts’ criminal division in 2018. According to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, between 95% and 97% of these are resolved with a plea deal.
More often than not, criminal cases do not go to trial for various reasons. In the face of overwhelming evidence, the offender often admits guilt, and the court will impose the appropriate penalties. Other times, the prosecuting team and the defense team will arrive at a plea bargain. Either way, justice is served instead of a protracted case. Also, the state can devote limited resources to ensure competent and timely justice in other cases.
When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?
All criminal defendants have the right to a speedy and public trial in Mississippi. Individuals charged with a crime can waive the right to a trial—in which case the court will impose the applicable sentence.
What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Mississippi?
The stages of a criminal trial in Mississippi are case-specific. These stages are quite complex and often involve several steps. Nevertheless, a criminal trial in Mississippi goes through nine (9) phases. These include:
- Arrest and Initial Appearance
- Preliminary Hearing
- Plea Negotiation
How Long Does It Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Mississippi?
The Mississippi criminal justice system ensures that defendants go to court as soon as possible. However, the court prioritizes criminal trials over civil trials. State court procedures by the Mississippi Supreme Court direct courts to set a trial date for a criminal case within 60 days but no later than 270 days after indictment unless the court provides good cause for a continuance. Once a case goes to trial, it may go on for several months and even years.
Meanwhile, Mississippi sets statutes of limitation on the window before prosecution of a crime. However, the window is not set in stone as the court may suspend the time limit if necessary. Suspension of the time limit allows the prosecutor and defense to develop a strong case. Miss. Code § 99–1–5 stipulates that prosecutors must bring charges on felonies and misdemeanors within two years. There are exceptions for violent crimes, burglary, larceny, rape, and sex-related cases.
What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Mississippi?
Criminal trial proceedings follow the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure. As mentioned earlier, a case generally goes to trial when both sides fail to arrive at a plea deal. Misdemeanor trials happen before a panel of six juries. In contrast, felony trials happen before a grand jury—a panel of twelve (12) individuals who must not have a conflict of interest in the case. The court selects jurors from a pool of qualified individuals after a voir dire examination by both parties.
- Trial: Here, the prosecutor must establish the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, the defense counsel does not have to prove the innocence of the defendant. Instead, the defense counsel’s goal is to disprove the prosecutor’s arguments or prove that the prosecutor failed to demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Both sides will use oral arguments, evidence, and cross-examination of witnesses to this effect.
- Jury Deliberation and Verdict: After these adversarial events, the presiding judge will direct the jury to consider the case under specified instructions. For conviction, the jury must arrive at a unanimous verdict; otherwise, the court or any party may file a motion to declare a mistrial. Upon arrival at a verdict, the judge shall call the foreperson, who represents the jury, to deliver the verdict of guilty or not guilty. Afterward, the judge shall enter the judgment and discharge the jury.
- Sentence: In most cases, the sentencing hearing is the end of a court trial. In most cases, the judge will impose the sentence immediately. However, at his or her discretion, the judge may order a pre-sentence report per Rule 26.3. The report contains information that the judge evaluates before imposing a sentence or considering eligibility for parole.
- Appeal: Every defendant convicted of a crime has the right to appeal the decision at the Court of Appeals. To do this, the defendant must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the sentence.
Can You Be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Mississippi?
No. Per section 22, Article 3 of the Mississippi Constitution, the court cannot try any person twice for the same offense after an acquittal or conviction. Likewise, the law prohibits multiple punishments for the same crime. The prohibition of double jeopardy is one of the reasons criminal trials tend to drag on for years.
How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Mississippi?
Criminal court records are available to interested persons at the Clerk of Courts’ office that filed the case. Under the Mississippi Public Records Act, these records are public, and requesters must visit the office of the Clerk in person, during business hours, to obtain records of interest. Generally, the requester must provide the necessary details to identify and retrieve the record. These typically include the docket number, case number, filing date, names of the defendants, and the presiding judge. Bear in mind that under the judiciary public records policy, records that contain sensitive or confidential information are restricted unless the requester presents a court order that explicitly grants access to that record.
Furthermore, the record custodian may charge administrative fees incurred in searching and reproducing the records. Requesters may be eligible for a fee waiver at the Clerk’s discretion or if the requester accessed the records on public terminals at the courthouse. Use the official directory to find the address and contact information of the Clerk of Circuit Courts in Mississippi. The requester may also consult a more detailed directory for the Mississippi Judiciary.
How to Access Electronic Court Records in Mississippi
The Mississippi judiciary maintains electronic copies of court records on the Mississippi Electronic Courts (MEC) portal. To access court records, the requester must create a PAMEC account and use the login details to access the MEC portal. The system will charge the requester an annual user fee of $10.00 and nominal access fees per document.
Independent repositories are also useful to access electronic case records, especially when obtaining multiple documents in different jurisdictions. The restriction of sealed or expunged records also applies to electronic records. Consequently, the requester must get a court order to allow access to that specific record.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. The websites often make searching for records simple, as they are unrestricted by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person, such as the city, county, or state.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Mississippi?
The requirements for removing or expunging public records varies depending on the record type. Miss. Code Ann. § 99–19–71 stipulates that offenders convicted of misdemeanors may petition the court to expunge their record if the individual meets statutory requirements. However, the expungement of court records does not apply to traffic conviction records. Similarly, records of cases in which charges were not filed or were dismissed are eligible for expungement. Likewise, juvenile court records are automatically restricted from public access.