CRIMINAL DEFENSE - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
If there is a warrant for your arrest, whether a felony or misdemeanor, you must contact your attorney immediately before you are arrested and taken into custody. If you do not have an attorney, it is advisable that you obtain a criminal defense attorney immediately to clear up the warrant. This is because if you are arrested or you turn yourself in alone you may have to wait until the next court date, maybe weeks, before you can be heard before the judge to release the warrant so you can be released from custody. Even then, you may have to post bail to be released from jail. Of course, you can post bail without an attorney and in that case, you should turn yourself into the applicable jurisdiction's jail with your bail bondsman. You will be taken into custody and then the can bail you out. Unless there are unforeseen surprises, not uncommon in the criminal justice world, this should be completed in a few hours. However, if you have a criminal defense attorney he can take you into court during court business hours and make an appearance, schedule the next court date to be heard on the warrant if it cannot be done then and there, thus clearing up the warrant without your having to be taken into custody.
If you truly cannot afford a lawyer, you can use your county's Public Defender. Every person in American has a right to a fair trial, and to legal counsel. That means you have a right to an attorney. Even if you cannot afford one, you still have that right in the nation. That is one of the beautiful things about America. Therefore, if you are charged with a crime and cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed and paid for by the state. These attorneys are called "Public Defenders. They are real lawyers licensed to practice law by the California State Bar. Often public defenders are among the best criminal defense lawyers around. However, they are usually extremely overworked. Thus, if you can afford an attorney, or if you can borrow money to pay for one, do so. We at the Lee Law Group often represent people on a sliding scale, charging fees according to their ability to pay. We also accept payments to make our services doubly affordable.
When a person is arrested in California, it means that they are charged with a crime, either against the state of California, or if it is a federal case, against the United States of America. Here, we will concentrate on arrests on the state level. Upon arrest in California, the police take him or her to jail.
Then, in most instances, 1 of 3 things happens:
• The defendant is released if the state, as represented by state prosecutor, (usually the district attorney if you are charged with a felony, or the city attorney if you are charged with a misdemeanor), decides not to file charges; or
• The defendant posts bail (also called a “bond”) or is released based on a promise to appear in court at a later date for arraignment. If either of these happen, the district attorney or police tell the defendant when to come to court for arraignment; or
• The defendant stays in jail. Law enforcement officers transport the defendant to the court for arraignment.
Later, your case's procedure begins as "prosecuted" by the state's representative, with an arraignment.
No, unless the state (as represented by the district attorney's office) have more charges, you remain free either your initial promise to appear in court when required or on the money bail you posted to initially get out of jail. The arraignment is the first time the defendant appears in court. At the arraignment, the judge tells the defendant:
• What the charges are, felony, misdemeanor or infraction.
• What his or her constitutional rights are, and
• That if he or she does not have enough money to hire a lawyer, the court will appoint a lawyer free of charge.
The defendant may then respond to the charges by entering a plea. Common pleas include guilty, not guilty, or no contest (also known as “nolo contendere”). The arraignment is the first time the defendant appears in court.
A "plea bargain" is an agreement between you and the state, (district attorney, or "DA"), where you agree to plead guilty to a lesser charge than you were originally charged, and the DA agrees not only to reduce the charge but limit punishment to a lesser degree. Thus, you get something: a lesser charge and less punishment or a lesser penalty, and the state (DA) gets something: the save the state the time and money is conducting a trial that they may not win.
Contact the court in the county where your case is being heard and ask them for any information you need about your case. Or, if you have a lawyer, you should contact your lawyer. Of course, if you are represented by the Lee Law Group you can always contact us, we will share all the information we have on your case with you, and we will try to get an answer to any questions you still have.
That is up to the courts. However, we at the Lee Law Group believe is "second chances" and we will do al in our power to help you get one. We do this by attempting to get you placed on probation for you so you do not have to go to jail. In addition, we will try to obtain the type of sentence, (called a suspended imposition of sentence), where once you successfully complete probation, the crime is no longer on your record. We also try to get our clients sentenced into "Diversion" programs where, once you successfully complete the program, it is often as if you were never arrested. Finally, we are firm believers in expungements which, to a certain extent, wipe can often wipe out criminal history clean.
If the court sentences you to a diversion program in a 'drug or alcohol case, your prosecution is "diverted” from being solely a criminal prosecution to one with a medical component. That is, the court recognizes that you are sick with drug-alcohol addiction problems. You must enroll in a court "approved drug-alcohol treatment program" and if you successfully complete the program as assigned, your record is cleaned to show the case never occurred.
If you were referred to a “diversion” program, your record will already be changed in 1 of 2 ways. If you successfully completed the entire diversion program requirements, your record should already be changed to show a dismissal. If you did not complete your requirements or were not actually given diversion, then the conviction will be on your record.
Yes and No. Possession of marijuana for personal use has been what is termed "de-criminalized". This terminology makes it appear as if it is no longer a reason for the police to get involved when they see a person using it. However, it is still chargeable as an infraction, like a speeding ticket. In addition, if you were convicted of possession of marijuana for personal use, then you do not necessarily need to get a dismissal for the offense.
Under California Health and Safety Code sections 11361.5 and 11361.7, all convictions for possession of marijuana for personal use, after January 1, 1976 to the present, are erased from your record after 2 years. However, this only applies to possession for personal use. If you are charged with possession for cultivation, sales, or transportation, you may still be prosecuted, even as a felony, and thus it will be on your record.
Police misconduct can happen, both in searches involving traffic stops or in a criminal suspect’s home. If a rights violation is detected from a review of the evidence, a defense attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence. In most cases, if evidence is suppressed, it effectively destroys the prosecution’s case. This can result in the case being dismissed or charges substantially reduced.
You must attempt to prove your innocence. This may be totally backward, but actually, this is when a person needs an attorney most of all because everyone claims innocence and very few actually are. You need to work closely with you attorney to find alibis, or other exculpatory evidence (i.e., evidence that helps prove your innocence), so that this nightmare does not grow into a tragedy.
As of your 18th birthday, you are eligible to petition to have your juvenile records sealed. Note that your juvenile records are not automatically sealed when you turn 18; you must affirmatively ACT and petition the juvenile court to have your record "sealed". Once your records are sealed, no one can gain access to them and they will be completely destroyed 5 years from the date of sealing.
If you have a question or concern regarding Criminal Defense that was not addressed on our website
The Lee Law Group will be glad to provide you a straight forward, no nonsense answer.