About the Criminal Process in California
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
Facing criminal charges can be frightening, daunting and can leave the
accused feeling helpless. The entire criminal process can be complex and
difficult to navigate if you do not know what to expect. With a Los Angeles
criminal defense lawyer on your side to protect your rights at every step
of the way, your chances of a positive outcome for your criminal case
are greatly increased. The criminal process in California typically involves
The police arrest someone based on probable cause that they have committed
a criminal offense. However, the police do not file the charges. They
simply provide reports and evidence to the prosecuting attorney, who then
decides whether or not charges should be filed, and if so, what charges.
Immediately upon your arrest, it is important to
remain silent and
an attorney. An attorney will be able to advise you on your rights and what your options
are at this point - and may even be able to help dissuade the prosecuting
attorney from filing charges.
2. Filing the Complaint
The prosecuting attorney files the document with the Court, which alleges
the criminal charges against you.
3. Arraignment/First Appearance
At the arraignment, you are formally advised of the charges and your constitutional
rights. Bail is often set during the arraignment. Bail is used by the
Court almost as an "insurance policy" that you will appear on
future court dates.
The amount of bail is determined by the Judge. The Judge will look to
two factors in deciding bail: your risk of flight and whether you pose
a danger to the community. Bail amounts can range from being released
on your own recognizance, all the way up to millions of dollars. In some
cases no bail is allowed.
If you have already retained a Los Angeles Defense Lawyer at this point,
your lawyer may be able to negotiate with the Court and prove that you
are not a flight risk - enabling a release on your own recognizance or
a lower bail amount.
4. Preliminary Hearing
Preliminary Hearings are held in all felony offenses to review probable
cause. This is necessary for the Judge to determine whether there is sufficient
evidence to support the charges against you. Once a Judge determines that
there is probable cause, he sends the case to the Superior Court for trial.
During the Preliminary Hearing, the District Attorney or the Judge can
add additional charges and/or readjust the bail.
5. Arraignment in the Superior Court
If the Judge has determined that there is probable cause to support the
charges, the prosecutor will file a charging document called "Information"
in the Superior Court. The Information alleges the charges which you are
facing at trial. At this time, you are formally advised of the charges
and your constitutional rights. Again, you enter a plea of not guilty.
Entering a plea of guilty or not guilty is an important decision that your
lawyer can advise you on. Depending upon your particular case, it often
benefits the accused to plead not guilty, but your lawyer can give you
advice pertinent to your unique situation.
6. Pre-trial Conference
At the pre-trial conference, your defense attorney discusses the case with
the prosecuting attorney and often may include the Judge in this process.
This is a good opportunity for your attorney to speak with the prosecution
in order to obtain the best possible deal, or plea-bargain. It also allows
your defense attorney to provide information which may prove your innocence.
During the jury trial you are entitled to have a jury of twelve impartial
jurors. Both the defense attorney and the prosecuting attorney have an
opportunity to make opening statements, introduce witnesses and evidence
in favor of their case, cross-examine witnesses and offer closing arguments.
During the deliberation phase of the case, the jury decides whether the
prosecution has met the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If the jury finds you not guilty, you are free to go and are not subject
to further prosecution based on the same offenses.
At the trial is where your lawyer's hard work and preparation will
pay off. It is important for your lawyer to thoroughly investigate all
aspects of your case, evidence and charges in order to anticipate the
prosecuting attorney's next moves and counter them with evidence and
information to defend your innocence. At your trial, your lawyer will
act as your voice and representation in front of the Judge and jury. Your
lawyer's experience, communication and negotiation skills and knowledge
will make all the difference in the outcome of your trial - along with
their persistence and willingness to fight aggressively to defend your rights.
If you are found guilty, the sentencing hearing is where the judge determines
and imposes the appropriate punishment. You may be sentenced to probation
instead of a term in state prison. Different crimes carry different possible
penalties. You are entitled to a sentencing hearing to propose why you
believe the judge should give you the lowest possible penalty.
When a guilty verdict is dealt, your defense lawyer can work to obtain
alternative sentencing, such as drug treatment or alcohol counseling,
in lieu of jail time. There are a number of strategies your lawyer may
utilize to help you avoid going to county jail or state prison.
If convicted, your lawyer may file an
appeal to an appellate level court with the argument that the trial court made
legal errors. If the defense can prove that the trial court made legal
errors, or you were denied due process of law or a fair trial, it may
result in the reversal of your conviction.
Parole is a conditional release from prison which entitles you to serve
the remainder of your term outside of prison. However, you are still under
the supervision of the department of corrections.
Expungement is a process where, in some cases, your conviction may be removed
from your record. An experienced attorney an help you determine whether
you may qualify for expungement, and will be able to guide you through
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert M. Bernstein
At the Law Offices of Robert M. Bernstein, we are committed to helping
clients throughout Los Angeles County who are facing criminal charges,
assault and battery,
embezzlement and much more. Regardless of the charges you are facing, by consulting
Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert M. Bernstein, you can get a
better idea of what you can do to help ensure a positive outcome for your case.