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 following:
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 contact 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 the process.
LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER
ROBERT M. BERNSTEIN
At the Law Offices of Robert M. Bernstein, we are committed to helping clients throughout Southern California who are facing criminal charges, including DUI, assault and battery, domestic violence, theft, fraud, federal crimes, drug offenses, child abuse, arson, 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.
Contact Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Robert M. Bernstein today!