California Criminal Court Process
Criminal Court Process
The criminal court process usually begins with a call to the police. Responding officers initiate the investigation and often turn their information over to detectives who then perform a more in depth investigation.
Again, the process typically begins with a call to the police and the police then follow up with an investigation by responding officers and in many cases further work is performed by detectives. In some cases a grand jury investigation is used in order to investigate alleged crimes, examine the evidence collected, and determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial. If the grand jury believes there is enough evidence to proceed to trial, indictments will issue.
After the investigators believe enough evidence has been collected to file criminal charges an individual is arrested and taken into custody, or provided with a citation or notice to appear in court. The police will arrest and take one into custody based upon the criminal charges they believe the evidence supports. However, the prosecuting agencies, such as the District Attorney or the City Attorney, will make the final decision as to which charges apply and, ultimately, the specific charge or charges an individual will face in court.
The first court appearance is the arraignment. At the arraignment an individual charged with a crime is informed of the charges, advised of his or her rights and provided with the information used to support the filing of charges. The individual then enters a plea of either not guilty, guilty, or no contest to the charges formally filed. In order to continue the process of contesting the charges, a plea of not guilty is entered, or a request to continue the arraignment is made. At this time the issue of bail is preliminarily determined. Other motions may be filed which are discussed under Defense Process.
Pretrial Hearing/Preliminary Hearing
In the event one is facing misdemeanor charges, Pretrial Hearings are set during the appearance for the arraignment. Pretrial Hearings are assigned specific dates for return to court. At these court appearances many issues are raised, including those outlined under Defense Process in the section below. Possible settlement agreements are also discussed. In the event the case is not dismissed or resolved, a trial date is set.
Following the arraignment in a felony, a preliminary hearing date is calendared. Prior to the preliminary hearing, if deemed appropriate and requested by the defense, the court will set one or more pre-preliminary hearing court dates. These court dates serve to allow for further dismissal and/or settlement negotiations as well as opportunities to properly determine the best date for the preliminary hearing to commence. During a preliminary hearing a Judge evaluates the evidence presented by the prosecution. This evidence need not be the entirety of the evidence the prosecution believes they may present at trial and the law allows prosecutors to place hearsay evidence from members of law enforcement before the Judge. The Judge then must determine, based upon the evidence presented by the prosecution, whether sufficient evidence was presented to allow the matter to continue further and proceed potentially to trial. During the preliminary hearing the defense is afforded the opportunity to cross examine the prosecutor's witnesses and, in some cases, present a defense and call witnesses to support its position. The preliminary hearing will substantially impact the path of your case. Thus, a well qualified attorney must represent you in order to protect your position and the outcome of your case. The Law Offices of Matthew Horeczko provides the excellent representation one needs at this critical stage. Mr. Horeczko's years of experience in criminal law as both a prosecutor and defense attorney creates the ability for success during the preliminary hearing and sets the stage for success at trial should the matter proceed.
In the event a Judge determines sufficient evidence exists to support a felony charge, a second charging document, the Information, is filed by the prosecution detailing the charges. A second arraignment is then held on the charges in the new charging document. Once again a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest is entered or a continuance of the arraignment is requested if appropriate. Upon entry of the not guilty plea, a jury trial date is typically calendared along with a preceding Pretrial date.
During the pretrial process on a felony, dismissal and resolution negotiations occur, as well as discussions regarding motions and scheduling, among other issues such as those explained under the Defense Process section below.
If your case is a misdemeanor charge, you have the right to proceed to trial within thirty days if you are in custody, or forty five days if you are out of custody, from your initial arraignment date. The trial may involve either a jury trial or a court trial. A court trial is a trial before a Judge wherein the Judge is the finder of the facts. Proceeding with a court trial necessitates both the prosecution and defense agree on the court trial.
If your case involves a felony charge, you have the right to proceed to trial within sixty days of your arraignment on the information. The trial may again involve either a jury trial or a court trial and a court trial again necessitates both the prosecution's and defense's agreement to proceed with a court trial
The court will sentence the defendant following a no contest or guilty plea, or upon a guilty verdict by a jury or Judge. Convictions for misdemeanor offenses carry a maximum of up to one year in a local or county jail. Convictions for felony offenses carry up to one year in a local or county jail or, alternatively, imprisonment in state prison. California law does allow for death sentences in certain cases under certain circumstances.
A court may sentence a defendant in misdemeanor and felony matters to probation. Probationary sentences are given in place of a prison term in felony matters and are typically formal, supervised probation. A court may require an individual on probation to complete any of a number of conditions of probation, including but not limited to: work programs, house arrest, drug treatment and drug testing, community service and work, payment of fines and fees, as well as many other terms. In felony cases a violation of probation may result in imprisonment in the state prison or local or county jails.
One maintains the right to appeal convictions and adverse rulings in many circumstances. Such appeals typically involve strict time frames and limitations. Following a conviction, an individual may petition to expunge the conviction and/ or rehabilitate their record regarding criminal convictions. Please refer to our expungements link.
Every defendant maintains the right to reasonable bail. The specific charge, or charges, as well as any special allegations and enhancements, along with any prior criminal record, enable a court to determine appropriate bail. Posting of bail allows an individual the ability to remain free from custody while defending his or her case. Bail may be posted by either utilizing a bail bondsman or directly with the court. The Law Offices of Matthew M. Horeczko will work towards a reduction in the bail amount set by the Judge and, in some cases, a release on one's own recognizance or promise to appear.
Discovery is a term used to broadly refer to evidence and information used in a criminal matter. The prosecution is required to provide to the defense the evidence and information intended for use against an individual. Discovery typically includes: police reports, police recordings, 911 tapes, photographs, videos, witness reports and corresponding information. However, disputes arise as to what the prosecution must disclose. Cases may rise or fall on the attorney's ability to force this issue in the client's favor. The Law Offices of Matthew Horeczko has consistently demonstrated superior knowledge and skill in this area and will fight to protect your rights regarding discovery.
There are many motions that may assist in the defense of your case. Common motions in criminal cases include: Motions to Dismiss the Charges, Motions to Compel Discovery, Motions to Suppress Evidence, Motions for Release of Confidential Informant Information, Motions to Quash or Traverse Warrants, Motion to Exclude Evidence and Motions to Modify Court Orders, to name only a small sampling. An experienced attorney is crucial during this process. Pretrial Motions often set the stage for success at trial and analyzing a case from an early stage in this regard is crucial in order to prepare and present the strongest defense possible. The appropriate motion or motions may lead to a reduction in charges or, in some cases, a dismissal. The Law Offices of Matthew Horeczko has demonstrated the experience, knowledge and creativity required during this process.
Each and every individual is afforded certain constitutional rights throughout the legal process. Awareness of and protection of these rights must begin as early as the first contact with law enforcement and continue throughout the conclusion of your case. Some of these rights include the right to remain silent and avoid self incrimination, the right to have an attorney, the right to present a defense, and the right to confront and cross examine witnesses. It is crucial to understand and protect these rights prior to speaking with law enforcement and potentially exposing oneself to criminal charges. More importantly, one should not waive or give up any of these rights prior to consulting an experienced attorney. The Law Offices of Matthew Horeczko will vigorously protect your Constitutional Rights at all times.
Criminal cases move quickly and a swift, prepared, intelligent response to an arrest is often crucial. Protecting yourself is key and the best way to protect yourself is by contacting the Law Offices of Matthew M. Horeczko. Police and law enforcement are not in the business of protecting your interests; collecting and obtaining evidence and information in order to build a case against you is. Do not waste valuable time, protect your rights, protect your freedom, protect yourself. Contact the Law Office of Matthew M. Horeczko. Our office is dedicated to protecting your interests and fighting on your behalf. Let us do our job.
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