If you have been charged with a crime, you may not know what to expect in the upcoming criminal process. Here is part two in the series covering what to expect throughout the ordeal.
If you are in custody, your arraignment will occur within three days, excluding weekends and holidays. If you were bailed out or not put in custody, the arraignment will generally be scheduled within a week of the arrest for felonies and after a month for misdemeanors.
At the arraignment, the charges against you will be officially presented. In many cases, these official charges will be different than the ones you were arrested for originally. In fact, the prosecutor can choose not to file charges at all at the arraignment and wait up to a year to file them for a misdemeanor or three years for a felony. In the case of murder charges, charges can be brought up at any time as there are no statue of limitations in these situations. If you are in custody and the prosecutor chooses not to file charges, you must be released.
You should always contact a skilled Vista criminal defense attorney after you have been arrested, whether you are placed in custody or not. Your lawyer can argue with the district attorney before your arraignment to have your charges lowered or dropped. If you remain in custody, he can also negotiate for your bail to be reduced or for you to be released on your own recognizance. In most misdemeanor cases, except domestic violence, your representative can appear at the arraignment without you. In cases involving domestic violence or felony charges, you must appear in person.
At the end of the procedure, a date will be set for your readiness conference and if you are facing felony charges, your preliminary hearing date will be scheduled as well. In some cases, the judge may consider changing your bail or releasing you, based on whether or not you are a “flight risk” or a public safety concern.
At this stage of the proceedings, your lawyer will negotiate with the prosecutor and judge regarding reducing the charges, dismissing the case and lowering the sentence. Essentially, the conference is a plea bargaining hearing. At the readiness conference, your lawyer can present the District Attorney and judge with information for them to consider in your case. Everything from evidence proving your innocence to letters confirming your character can be important at this stage. If things are not settled at this stage, you will have a preliminary hearing.
If a felony case is not settled at a readiness conference, it will move on to a preliminary hearing. After hearing testimony from the police, witnesses and alleged victims, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence to hold you on the charges or if your felony case should be reduced to a misdemeanor.
At the hearing, the prosecution will not be expected to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, but just to show that there is enough suspicion on you for you to be charged. Your Vista criminal lawyer will be able to present witnesses on your behalf and cross examine the prosecution’s witnesses to prove that there is not enough evidence for you to be charged. You and your lawyer may opt to waive your right to a preliminary hearing if you choose to.
For more information on the criminal process, please see parts III and IV of the series. If you missed part I, it can be found here. To speak with an Vista criminal attorney about charges you may be facing, please call (760) 643-4050.
Creative Commons Image by Valerie Everett