An “arraignment” is usually the first court date and at the arraignment the Judge will tell you what the charges against you are, and will then ask you what you want to do with your case. You can continue your case for entry of plea, enter a plea of Not Guilty, or your can plead guilty or no contest without knowing anything about the evidence against you. If you are charged with a Misdemeanor you must appear on the Arraignment Date unless you Hire a Lawyer and then in most cases your Lawyer can go to Court for you; you will likely never have to go to court. If you are charged with a Felony, then you must appear at the Arraignment and you should do so with an Attorney. After the Arraignment there are usually many court dates for Pretrial Conferences and Motions, and then either a resolution of the case or Trial.
Pretrials and Motions
Pretrials, Court dates before a trial begins, are meant to facilitate the exchange of evidence and to foster negotiations in each Court case. Pretrial Motions can include Suppression Motions (if evidence or statements were illegally obtained by law enforcement); Motions to Dismiss for lack of speedy prosecution or destruction of evidence; and hearings on the admissibility of evidence such as scientific test results of blood, breath, or urine samples.
Preliminary Hearing – Felony
If you are charged with a Felony in California, and you plead Not Guilty, you have the Right to a Preliminary Examination of the Evidence. A Judge will conduct a hearing where the Prosecutor, usually the District Attorney’s office, has to prove to the Judge that you could have committed the crime. The evidence against you will usually consist of officer testimony under oath and on the record. If after the Preliminary Hearing the Judge believes that you could have committed the crime, your case will continue on to Trial or an acceptable resolution. If you are charged with any Felony, and you intend to fight your case at a Jury Trial, the Preliminary Examination is essential for proper Trial preparation.
In any Criminal or DUI case you have the right to a Jury Trial where twelve people from the community hear and see the evidence and witnesses in your case, and then decide whether the Government proved that you broke the law. There are many possible trial defenses, for example if you are charged with Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol you may be able to fight the reason why you were stopped or arrested in the first place; you may have been arrested even though you weren’t drunk when you were driving; and there are often flaws in conclusions drawn by law enforcement, and inherent inaccuracy in the equipment and methods used to test your breath, blood, or urine. If you do not want to plead guilty or no contest then you are entitled to a trial and you can either have a court trial (where a Judge decides if you’re guilty – that’s almost always a bad idea), or a Jury trial.
In all Misdemeanor cases the Judge can lock you up in jail for the maximum time allowed if he or she wants to. Most Judges, however, will put you on Probation and that essentially means that you don’t do all of the possible jail time and instead the Judge gives you a period of time, usually three or five years, to follow certain terms and conditions imposed by the court. Terms of DUI Probation can include obeying all laws, spending some time in jail, paying fines and fees, attending an alcohol treatment program at your expense, staying out of bars, and not drinking any alcohol. Court probation, also called Summary or Informal Probation, means that the Judge is going to make sure that you comply with the terms of your Probation, and if you don’t, the Judge can give you some or all of the remaining jail time. Negotiating the terms and conditions of your Misdemeanor Probation is an essential part of any proposed plea agreement.
If you are convicted of any Felony, the Judge can send you straight to State Prison. When you get out of prison you will have a set of rules to follow, and you will be supervised by a Parole Officer. If the Judge decides not to send you to prison you will most likely be placed on Felony Probation and that means that you will have a Probation Officer you report to, and that officer gets paid to make sure you follow the terms of your Probation. He or she can search your person, your vehicle, or your house, and can demand a sample of your blood or urine to determine whether you are using alcohol or any drugs. If you violate any terms of your Felony Probation, the Judge can either give you additional time in jail and keep you on probation, or terminate probation and send you to State Prison.
If you or your lawyer does not go to Court to face the Judge when you are charged with any Crime or DUI, or if you are accused of violating the terms of your probation, the Judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are caught by law enforcement when you have a warrant, they will probably arrest you and you will usually wait in jail until the Judge can see you. You will then have to decide what to do with your case. If you miss a court date or find out that a warrant has issued for your arrest, Hire a Lawyer to file a Motion to Recall the Warrant so you can walk in to court with your lawyer to deal with it. Dealing with a warrant before law enforcement catches you can have a significant impact on how much time you spend in jail.
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Court is a foreign place for most people and there is a lot that happens that doesn’t make much sense – if you are arrested or charged with any crime call us immediately and schedule a Free Consultation to meet and discuss your situation – we know our way around Court and we know how to fight to get you the best result in your case. Call Today 530-898-1111
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