If the District Attorney accepts the case, the state is the prosecuting party. The victim is considered a witness for the case. The prosecuting attorney makes all critical decisions about the case but typically consults with the victim.
An advocate with the District Attorney's office is assigned to the case. The advocate helps explain the legal process and is the main point of contact between the victim and the prosecuting attorney.
Once charges are filed, the defendant is advised of them and the preliminary hearing is scheduled.
During the preliminary hearing the Judge decides if there is probable cause. Probable cause indicates that enough facts exist to prove the defendant committed the crime. The victim may have to testify at the preliminary hearing. If the Judge finds probable cause, the defendant will be scheduled for an arraignment. If a not guilty plea is entered at the arraignment, a trial date will be set. If a guilty plea is entered, a sentencing date will be set.
Not every case results in a trial. Instead, a plea bargain is sometimes offered to the defendant. A plea bargain is an offer for the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge. This offer is a means by which a defendant is convicted and punished, without having to go to trial.
If a defendant refuses a plea bargain, a trial by jury will follow. Once the jury is selected and sworn in by the Judge, the prosecution and the defense present their case. The victim will most likely have to testify at the trial. After all evidence has been presented, the Judge will read instructions to the jury. These instructions contain the laws the jurors must follow when deciding whether or not to convict the defendant.
If the defendant is found not guilty, the defendant is released and the case is dismissed. If the defendant is found guilty, then a sentencing date is set. At sentencing, the Judge will impose a penalty on the defendant. The victim will have an opportunity to inform the Judge, either verbally or in writing, how the crime has affected his/her life.
Note: the decision about whether to continue to prosecute is made several times during the progression of the case. There are many factors the prosecuting attorney takes into consideration, for example: whether there is enough evidence to convict, the probability of conviction, the nature of the crime, and the character of the offender.