The Criminal Process

If you have been arrested and taken into custody, either bail will be set or you will be released on your "own recognizance" (i.e. your promise to appear). If bail has been set, you have two options. Either you post the full amount of the bail with the jail or you retain a bail bondsman, who for a fee will guarantee that you will show up on your court dates. Normally the fee is 10 percent of the bond amount. For example, if bail was set at $10,000, you would have to give the bail bondsman $1,000, plus a small processing fee. Some bail bondsman only charge eight percent if you are referred to them by an attorney. In that case you would only pay the bail bondsman $800, plus the processing fee. At the end of your case you do not get that fee back.

If you are local, usually you will be released on your "own recognizance." If you are out of state, normally you must post bail.

If you fail to appear in court when ordered to, whether you promised to appear or posted bail, the court will issue a new bench warrant for your arrest. If you posted bail, the bail will be forfeited. The court will then issue a bench warrant for your arrest (requiring the posting of a new bail) or in some cases order that you not be released on bail, but require law enforcement to bring you before the court in custody.

San Luis Obispo Criminal Law Attorney

Your first court appearance is called an arraignment. At this hearing, the court will advise you of the charges against you, give your attorney a copy of the complaint and the police reports, and ask what your plea is. There are three types of pleas: GUILTY, NO CONTEST and NOT GUILTY. Never plead guilty. A no contest plea cannot be used against you in a civil case. A no contest means that you don't want to fight the case, but are willing to be sentenced as if you plead guilty.

If you have been charged with an infraction or a misdemeanor, an attorney can appear for you. In most cases you will never have to appear in court.

If you are charged with a felony, you must appear at your first court appearance. Your attorney can arrange that you need only appear at specified hearings or when the court orders you to be present. This will allow you to limit the time you will miss from work or school.

At that first appearance, you always want to plead NOT GUILTY whether or not you think you are guilty. This will give your attorney enough time to demand that the prosecution provide all the evidence they have against you. Your attorney will then have time to analyze all the evidence, prepare a defense and be prepared to negotiate with the prosecutor and the court. The burden is always on the prosecution to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that you are guilty. If they can't prove it, then you are NOT GUILTY and the case against you will be dismissed.

Many times the evidence can be ambiguous and a plea to a lesser offense or lesser punishment can be negotiated. Where the evidence is strong against you, it may be wisest to rely on the negotiating experience and skills of your attorney. There are diversion, counseling and treatment programs and community work service as alternatives to jail sentences. A good attorney will present your case in the best light to the court.

You always have the option of taking your case to trial. The old saying that "a person who represents himself has a fool for a client" is very true. If you decide to go to trial, you definitely need an attorney to represent you. Prosecutors are highly trained attorneys with years of experience. It would not be a fair fight. You need an attorney to properly analyze the facts of your case, prepare your defense and present your case at trial. A good attorney will discuss the facts and their significance with you and advise you of all your options and the likelihood of success.

To talk about any aspect of the criminal process in a free initial consultation call California criminal defense lawyer Denton Wilson now at 805-546-8098 or e-mail him here.

Office Location

Wilson & Wilson,
Attorneys at Law

960 Toro Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: 805-546-8098
Fax: 805-781-3427
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