You never thought you would be in this situation… arrested, booked into jail, released on bail, and now fighting criminal charges. Right now you may be sitting in your house wondering what you are supposed to do now. You’ve never been in trouble before especially not arrested, and have no idea who to call for help. As confusing and traumatic as the experience you are going through is, everything will be okay. The most important thing you need to do right now is to gain an understanding of the criminal court process so you can make informed decisions on how you want to proceed.
Find An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
Before showing up to court for your first court date, you need to consult with an experienced criminal attorney who can confidentially discuss your situation with you, assess the facts and tell you what your options are. During your consultation, find out how long he or she has been practicing criminal law and if he or she actual has extensive jury trial experience.
Your first court appearance after being arrested will be your arraignment. The purpose of the arraignment is to be informed of the actual charges the prosecutor decided to file (based upon the police report the arresting officer submitted to the prosecutor’s office) and enter your formal plea – guilty or not guilty. The judge will also address your bail status and will set bail if it has not already been set. If you were arrested in Orange County, the county’s bail schedule will apply. Bail on a misdemeanor charge is much less than that in a felony case. If you happen to be involved in a theft or fraud related case where the monetary amount of the alleged loss exceeds the bail schedule, the court will most likely set the bail at the amount of the alleged loss. If this happens, your attorney can request a bail review hearing and file a bail reduction motion to ask the court to lower the bail to a reasonable amount.
After a plea has been entered and bail has been set, the court will set a pre-trial hearing. During the pre-trial hearing the attorney will have a chance to speak to the assigned prosecutor about your case and find out what the prosecutor’s “offer” to settle your case is. This first offer is usually an offer to plead guilty with some sort of punishment, a probation period, fines and fees.
If you do not like your offer and want to continue to fight your case, your attorney can set a jury trial date. By setting the jury trial date, the prosecutor is then forced to actually review your case in detail and determine if the prosecutor’s office actually wants to proceed to trial, or settle by presenting a better offer.
After the jury trial date is set, and on or before that date, your attorney will have another opportunity to discuss your case with the assigned trial prosecutor. If an acceptable resolution still cannot be reached, the case will then be sent out to a courtroom that conducts jury trials. Once you are sent to the trial courtroom, the judge will usually take the attorneys into chambers to see if there is any possibility of resolving the case one last time prior to bringing the potential jurors to the courtroom to begin jury selection. If an agreement can still not be reached…the jury trial process begins…