The Beginning of the Oakland Criminal Process

If you’ve been accused of a crime, you’re technically in the second step of the criminal process. Law enforcement starts each case with an investigation, which can lead to an arrest. After you’ve been arrested, you’ll be arraigned.

Learn more about Oakland investigations, arrests, and arraignments.

Criminal Investigations in the Bay Area

Before anyone is accused of a crime in Oakland, there’s an investigation. Law enforcement can either:

  • Suspect a person of criminal activity after an investigation, or
  • Witness someone allegedly commit a crime before arresting them.

When police investigate crimes, they might interview witnesses, execute search warrants, or question “persons of interest.”

If You’re Approached by Police…


If you’re approached by police, either as a witness or as a suspect, do not panic. You have rights that protect you from unfair treatment. Police should not violate those rights. You can work with an Oakland criminal defense attorney to fight any violations.

One of those rights is the right to remain silent. If police ask you questions and you don’t want to answer, simply tell them you’re exercising your right to remain silent. You can provide your name and contact information. Remember, anything you say can be used against you in court. The prosecution and police cannot use your silence against you. Discuss your options with your criminal defense attorney.

Getting Arrested in Oakland

If police determine they have sufficient evidence to charge you with an offense, or if they witness you allegedly break the law, they will arrest you. You’ll be taken to jail to be processed, or “booked” into the system.

When police book you into the system, they’ll record your fingerprints, take notes about your arrest, check your criminal background, and check personal information. They’ll review your name, any known aliases, home address, or other identifying information.

Once you’re booked, you’ll either remain in jail until your arraignment, or you’ll be released on your own recognizance (ROP).

Arraignments in Oakland

An arraignment hearing is the first time someone will appear in court after they’re arrested, and is their opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. These hearings must take place within 48 hours of your arrest, except during holidays or weekends. If you are released after your arrest, your arraignment could be scheduled later.

During an arraignment, the judge will read all the criminal charges filed against you. You can either plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you choose to plead guilty or offer no contest, you’re admitting the sentencing penalties for the charges you face. The court can schedule your sentencing hearing.

By pleading not guilty, you assert your innocence and get a chance to have a trial. The judge may set your bail, which must be paid to secure your release. Bail isn’t always available, but that will depend on the circumstances of your arrest.

Taking Your Case to an Oakland Court

If you can, you should contact an Oakland criminal defense lawyer after you’ve been arrested. Not only can they advise you on your plea and bond options, they can also start investigating your case and ensure you’re receiving fair treatment. There will be pre-trial proceedings. Some criminal cases don’t go to trial, but you will benefit by working with an attorney who treats your case like it is going to court to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Getting Ready for Trial in the Bay Area

Getting ready for court doesn’t just mean investigating your case and finding evidence to exonerate you. Your attorney will be busy dealing with pre-trial proceedings, negotiating with the court, and working on the possibility of getting your charges dropped or reduced.

Your attorney may be able to negotiate a plea deal or work on getting an alternative sentence. You’ll still face a punishment, but it won’t be as harsh as a full sentence. Your lawyer could also file motions to suppress evidence the prosecution wants to use.

The period before a trial varies in length. It could be days, weeks, or months. You could have additional court appearances, both sides will share their evidence through the discovery process, and possibly plea negotiations. If your lawyer feels your best chance for freedom is a trial, you may need to go back to court.

Oakland Trials

If neither side can reach a plea deal or the prosecution insists on moving forward with your charges, your case will proceed to trial. Both sides will present evidence arguing for their perspective.

In California, you can either have a bench trial or a jury trial. The key difference between these trials is who the arguments are made to: a jury trial has a group of your peers judging your guilt, but a judge will determine your guilt at a bench trial. Jurors are selected from a pool. Once a jury is established, the trials proceed almost the same.

Oakland Court Proceedings

In a trial, a prosecutor is trying to persuade the judge or jury of your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” They’ll make arguments based on available evidence to show you are guilty. Meanwhile, your attorney will try to cast shadows of doubt on the possibility of your guilt using defenses that make the jury doubt the prosecutor’s arguments.

Both sides will make their opening arguments, present their evidence, use witness or expert testimony, and then make closing arguments. The jury will review the evidence and deliberate. If you’re found not guilty, you are acquitted and free to leave. If you’re found guilty, you’ll return to jail for your sentencing.

What Happens After a Trial in Oakland?

If you’re found guilty in a trial, you’ll be punished with a fitting sentence, determined by several factors.

  • Mitigating Factors: these can reduce your sentence. For instance, your attorney could argue that a mental illness or substance dependence influenced your actions. That lack of control could equal a lessened sentence.
  • Aggravating Factors: these can increase your sentence. If you have an existing criminal record or if your crime was excessively heinous, you could receive a longer sentence.

The prosecution and your attorney can present arguments on which sentence matches your crimes. In California, misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine. Felony convictions mean time in state prisons and fines. You may also be sentenced to complete counseling, treatment, community service, or probation.

Appealing Your Conviction

It’s possible to appeal your conviction to a higher court. That doesn’t mean you get a new trial: you’re disagreeing with the outcome of your first trial. An appellate judge will review that based on several factors, like prosecutorial misconduct, insufficient evidence, or ineffective legal counsel.

The appellate judge can either overturn your conviction, allowing you a new trial to argue your innocence, or they will affirm your initial conviction.

FAQs for Oakland’s Criminal Proceedings

Can your lawyer help stop an investigation?

It’d be extremely challenging for your Oakland defense attorney to stop a criminal investigation if you don’t know about it before you’re arrested. However, your criminal defense lawyer can help in other ways after your arrest.

They can show there was insufficient evidence to proceed with the criminal investigation against you. They can either negotiate with the prosecution to drop your case or present compelling evidence to a jury. Getting them involved early can go a long way in achieving a desirable outcome in your case.

What if My Rights Were Violated in an Investigation?

If you think your rights were violated by law enforcement, your attorney can find evidence to support your claim. They can use California’s search and seizure laws to show that police didn’t legally collect evidence, or they might argue your Miranda rights were violated. These are strong defense options, often resulting in reduced or dropped charges.

What If I Have to Report to Court?

You may have to report to court for pre-trial proceedings or an actual trial. Alameda County has four courthouses for criminal proceedings. You should check with your attorney about where you should report.

Locations include:

Why Should I Call an Oakland Defense Attorney?

You have the right to represent yourself in any legal matter. However, a skilled Oakland criminal defense lawyer can improve your chances at reducing your charges or getting acquitted. They know how to investigate criminal proceedings and can make arguments on your behalf, especially if they suspect police misconduct. Attorneys with experience in Alameda County can support you in ways you might not expect, using their familiarity with the courts, judges, or prosecutors to find favorable solutions to your criminal case.

Trust an Oakland Criminal Defense Lawyer Now

The California criminal court process can be complex. Get the answers you need and an assertive legal advocate when you contact Attorney Seth Morris to take on your case.