What Happens After Criminal Charges Are Filed In California?
If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, your entire life could change. The impact of a conviction could have a devastating effect on your life.
The time between your arrest and any trial will be full of legal processes. After your arrest, you can expect charges to be filed, investigations, and preparations for trial. It can be a stressful experience if you’re going through it for the first time or going through it alone.
Process for Filing Charges
After your arrest, the arresting officer or law enforcement official will write their report. It will detail the events leading to your arrest, any witness statements and contact information, and other details pertinent to the case.
The state’s prosecuting attorney will review the report and determine which criminal charges should be filed. If charges are filed, the PA will decide their severity and file them as misdemeanors or felonies based on the circumstances of your case.
Charges will generally be filed within 48 hours of your arrest. This does not include weekends, mandatory court closure days, or court holidays.
Your arraignment will be your first court appearance. Here, you can expect to learn what charges have been filed against you, your rights, and if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you.
At this point, you will enter your plea. There are three potential pleas you can enter during your arraignment. These include:
- Not guilty – you dispute the charges filed against you, and the state must prove you committed the crime. Note: this is the only plea that will afford you a trial.
- Guilty – you admit to the charges filed against you, and the state will begin sentencing
- No contest – you do not admit guilt to the charges filed against you, but you do not dispute them either. This plea is considered the same as a guilty plea.
During the arraignment hearing, the judge will determine whether you should be released with bail or if you should be remanded to jail.
In most non-violent, low-level offenses, the judge may release you on a recognizance bond, in which you promise to come back to the court of your own volition for your next appearance. Most recognizance bonds stipulate a fee and possible jail time if you are absent from your next appearance.
The judge may also decide you can be released once your bail is paid.
After the Arraignment
After a not guilty plea, your criminal defense attorney will begin working on your defense. Through discovery, the prosecuting attorneys and your defense team will exchange information about the case, including any police arrest reports, witness statements, photos or video evidence, and expert testimony.
This is also the time to file any pretrial motions, like motions to dismiss or suppress evidence. After looking over the evidence, your defense team may determine the best route is a change of plea and begin working on a reasonable plea agreement if the case isn’t going to trial.
You will have the option of having a jury of your peers try your case, or a judge can review the evidence and arguments in your case for a court trial. Under the law, you are innocent until proven guilty.
However, do not be surprised if you feel you have already been convicted and must fight for your freedom. The state must show you are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” so your attorney will be responsible for introducing that reasonable doubt to the judge or jury.
At trial, both the state’s prosecuting attorney and your criminal defense lawyer will have the opportunity to introduce and question witnesses, present evidence, and give opening and closing statements about the case. The judge or jury will retire to deliberate and review the evidence to obtain a verdict.
You will be acquitted and released from custody if you are found not guilty of the criminal offense. You will no longer be allowed to face criminal charges for this particular offense in the future under both state and federal double jeopardy laws.
If you are found guilty of the crime in question, you will be sentenced based on the charges against you.
Filing an Appeal
You have the right to file an appeal after a criminal offense conviction. The criminal appeals process is complex, and you must file your appeal before the deadline for it to be considered.
It is important to note that appeals are not a new trial but rather an opportunity for you to show the appellate court that legal errors were made in your original trial.
Contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney for Help Today
Criminal charges carry harsh penalties and can devastate your life. For the best chance of acquittal or even a lessened sentence, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
The attorneys at Morris Law know the California court system and the compassion to fight your case with you.