County Attorneys prosecute criminal cases on behalf of the State of Nebraska in and for Phelps County. The basic procedure is as follows:
- An individual violates the laws of the State of Nebraska.
- The violator is taken to jail or is given a citation (ticket) by a local Police Department, by the Phelps County Sheriff Department, or by the Nebraska State Highway Patrol.
- If the citation allows a waiver, the violator may plead guilty and pay the fine and court costs.
- If the violator is not allowed a waiver, the citation will have an arraignment date for the violator to appear in Court. There are three plea options at the arraignment: guilty, no contest, not guilty. The Plea goes on the Court's record and the fine, or jail time is assessed. If the plea is not guilty, the matter is set for further hearing before the Court or a Jury.
- The County Attorney or a Deputy is selected to prosecute this case. He or she examines all the written, photographic, or physical evidence that the law enforcement officers and their witnesses have provided.
- If the violation of the law is a misdemeanor it remains in the County Court system.
- If the violation of the law is a felony, it is first heard in County Court. The Judge determines if the State has presented sufficient evidence to bind the case over to the District Court for trial by judge or jury.
- The County Attorney or a Deputy County Attorney goes to Court. The suspect is called the Defendant in Criminal Court. The accused and that person's Attorney attend court also. A jury of six is selected for County Court and a jury of twelve is selected for District court. The evidence is first presented in court by the County Attorney or the Deputy County Attorney by way of witnesses, photographic or physical evidence.
- The Defendant's attorney then presents their case by way of witnesses, photographic or physical evidence and occasionally the testimony of the defendant.
- The jury is given instructions about the law and how they may make their decision as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
- If the defendant is found to be guilty the sentencing occurs within thirty days.