If you are facing felony or misdemeanor charges in San Diego, it may seem like you are going to court hearings a lot and not much is getting done. However, with a good criminal defense lawyer, that could not be further from the truth. In California, the criminal court process is a series of court hearings, all with a specific purpose for your case and your San Diego criminal defense attorney.
Below, each type of hearing is explained:
Arraignment: The arraignment is the first court hearing that you will encounter. If you are in custody, the arraignment must be within 48 hours of your arrest not including weekends or holidays. If it is not within 48 hours, it is cause for an unlawful detention. At an arraignment you will be advised of your constitutional rights by your San Diego criminal defense attorney, you will have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty, and the issue of bail may be addressed. Additional court dates will then be set. At this time, your defense attorney can ask for a bail review hearing to be set.
Pre–prelim Readiness: A readiness court hearing is an opportunity for your criminal defense attorney and the prosecuting agency to strike a plea deal prior to a preliminary hearing. Your defense attorney will discuss any potential offers that the prosecutor has for you. The offer by the prosecutor is an attempt to avoid an often extensive and expensive trial. The decision to plead guilty in exchange for a trial is ultimately up to you; however a good San Diego criminal defense lawyer will advise you whether taking the offer is a good idea. If you decide not to take the plea deal, your case will transition into a preliminary hearing and the court will set a date.
Preliminary Hearing: A preliminary court hearing is an opportunity for both the prosecutor and the defense attorney to present their case. The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to determine whether the prosecutor actually has probable cause to charge you with the respective charges. If the judge determines that there is in fact not enough evidence to produce probable cause than the charges will be dismissed and you will be released. If the judge determines there is probably cause then the case will proceed to post-prelim readiness and another hearing date will be set.
Post Prelim Readiness: post prelim readiness is a final court hearing opportunity for the parties to strike a deal in order to avoid trial.
Trial: If the parties were unable to strike a plea deal that appeals to both sides, the case will proceed to trial. Each party has the right to waive a jury, which means a judge will listen to the evidence and decide a verdict according to his own unbiased opinion. If both parties do not waive a jury, the case will be decided by a random selection of the local population in a procedure, formally known as voire dire.
Sentencing: Once a verdict is reached, the judge will either dismiss the case or sentence the defendant. The sentencing will often be based on the facts and circumstances of the case in addition to sentencing guides utilized by the courts. Sentencing occasionally happens at the time the verdict is read, but most often it is set for a later date.
Attorney Stephen G. Cline has been a practicing San Diego criminal defense attorney for 20 years. His reputation and experience will be the key to the aggressive defense of your San Diego criminal case. Call today at (619) 235-5638 to review your specific case!