Misdemeanor cases are initiated with an arrest.
Once you have been arrested for a crime in California your first court appearance is called your arraignment.
Prior to your arraignment you will either be released on your “own recognizance” (O.R.) or a bail will be set. If you are released O.R. you will sign an O.R. release agreement. This agreement requires that you (1) promise to appear for all future court dates, (2) promise to abide by all reasonable conditions imposed by the court, (3) promise not leave the state without permission, (4) acknowledge that you were told the penalties and consequences for failing to appear in court, and (5) waive extradition.
If bail is set you must post your bail to be released or you will remain in custody. If you remain in custody your arraignment must take place within 48 hours of your arrest, not including weekends and holidays. If you post bail and are out of custody your arraignment will be set several weeks out.
Your attorney will have the opportunity to persuade the judge to reduce your bail, or release you on your “own recognizance” at arraignment.
Everyone is entitled to an O.R. release unless they are charged with a crime that is punishable by death, or their release threatens the public safety or their appearance in court cannot be assured.
After the arrest, and before the arraignment, the arresting agency will send the case to the appropriate prosecuting agency. If the prosecutor determines that there is enough evidence to go forward in the case it will be set for arraignment. If the prosecuting agency determines that there is not enough evidence to proceed with the case they will not file charges, and dismiss the case.
The prosecutor does however, have up to one year from the time of the offense to file charges in a misdemeanor case.
The arraignment is generally the first court date in a California criminal case. At the arraignment the accused will enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. The court may also re-address the issue, and the judge will set a future court date.
The court will advise you of your constitutional rights, and you will find out what specific charges have been filed against you.
Your constitutional rights include: (1) the right to be represented by an attorney (including a court appointed public defender) (2) the right against self-incrimination (3) the right to a speedy trial (4) the right to a trial by jury, and (5) the right to produce and confront witnesses.
It is important to note that if you have been charged with an infraction opposed to a misdemeanor that not all of these rights will apply.
The arraignment is also the first opportunity for your attorney to review the evidence that is being brought against you, called the “discovery”. The prosecution is required to give your defense attorney any and all relevant evidence relating to your case.
Pursuant to Penal Code 977(a), in the majority of misdemeanor proceedings your attorney may appear on your behalf, and your presence is never required unless you take the case to trial. The exceptions to this are California domestic violence cases, protective order violation allegations, and certain DUI offenses.
The next court date after arraignment is called a pretrial conference. The pretrial conference refers to each court date that takes place after arraignment and before trial.
There are often several pretrial conference court dates. These dates give your attorney the opportunity to file motions that may be relevant to your case, negotiate possible outcomes with the prosecutor and the judge, and obtain all the relevant evidence from the prosecutor in your case.
Often cases resolve at the pretrial conference stage. Either your attorney will be able to file a motion to get your case dismissed, or a plea agreement will be reached between you and the prosecutor. If a resolution is not reached the case will go to trial.
If your case does not resolve during pretrial proceedings it will go to trial. There are two types of California trials: jury trials and bench trials.
Bench trials are held only in front of a judge, who acts as both the judge and the jury. A jury trial however is held in front of 12 members of the community who determine, after hearing all of the evidence presented, whether you are guilty or not guilty.
Anyone in California accused of a misdemeanor or felony is entitled to a jury trial.
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If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges I invite you to contact the Law Office of Miles Booth by calling 424 272 1134 or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will provide you with a free case evaluation to help you determine the best available options for your case, as well as what steps we can take to help ensure your freedom.