Criminal Court Procedure

Criminal Court Defense Attorney Chris Caraway
Criminal Court Defense Attorney Chris Caraway

Call Today 530-898-1111

The Arraignment

An “Arraignment” is the first court date. At the Arraignment a Judge explains the charges against you, and then ask you what you want to do with your case. You can continue your case, enter a plea of “Not Guilty,” or your can plead “Guilty” or No Contest without knowing anything about the evidence against you (that’s usually a bad idea). If you are charged with a Misdemeanor you must appear on the Arraignment Date unless you hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer. In most misdemeanor cases, your Criminal Defense Lawyer can go to Court for you. 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 with the Prosecutor. 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. 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, conducting the Preliminary Examination is almost always essential for proper Trial preparation. Call an experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer today (530) 898-1111 to discuss your case.

Jury Trials

In any misdemeanor or felony Criminal case you have the right to a Jury Trial where twelve people from the community hear and see the evidence and witnesses against you. They must decide whether the Government has proved your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In most cases there are almost always defenses, and each case requires a thorough analysis by a Criminal defense Attorney to properly assess and prepare any available defenses. 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.

Court Probation

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 means that you don’t do the maximum jail time. 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 Probation can include obeying all laws, usually spending some time in jail, paying fines and fees, and sometimes attending treatment programs at your expense. 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. Your Criminal Defense Lawyer negotiating the terms and conditions of your Misdemeanor Probation is an essential part of any proposed plea agreement.

Felony Probation

If you are convicted of any Felony, the Judge can send you straight to either County or State Prison. When you get out of prison you will have a set of rules to follow, and you will usually 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. 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 Prison.


If you or your Lawyer does not go to Court, 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 likely wait in jail until the Judge can see you. If you miss a court date or find out that a warrant has issued for your arrest, meet with a Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately to discuss your options.

Hire a Lawyer

Court is a foreign place for most people, and it can often be confusing and often overwhelming. If you are arrested or charged with any crime call me immediately and schedule a Free Consultation to meet and discuss your situation. I know my way around our Court system, and I know how to fight to get you the best result in your case. Call Today 530-898-1111

Free Consultations

(530) 898-1111