If you have been arrested by the police, more than likely you are going to have a lot of questions. That is why it is important to understand the process. A misdemeanor is a crime that is punishable by a sentence of less than a year in prison. A felony is a crime that is punishable by more than one year. Misdemeanors commonly end up with the defendant, if convicted, serving probation or a short jail term depending upon the crime and whether there is a previous criminal record.
1. The first step is your arraignment. An arraignment is your first court date, where your rights are explained to you and the charges which have been filed against you are presented to the court. The best thing to do, if you don’t have a lawyer, is explain to the court that you would like to get one. They will more than likely give you time for that. You should be aware that the District Attorney will likely ask for the harshest penalty possible when charging the crime.
2. You attorney will more than likely enter a plea of not guilty, waive time, and set the matter for another hearing while he or she explores the facts of the case and determines whether or not you can mount a real defense to the crime. By waiving time that means you are giving up your right to a speedy trial so your lawyer can investigate the facts.
3. Next, many attorneys file pre-trial motions, such as a Motion to Suppress Evidence under Evidence Code 1538.5. If there has been a violation of your rights, then evidence may have been illegally obtained and then cannot be used against you at trial. This may lead to the dismissal of the charges.
4. Finally comes the trial. The District Attorney presents his case and evidence against you, and you will be tried by either a judge or a jury. Many times if there is a weakness in the case, there will be a deal before trial or an outright dismissal. Unlike television, it tends to be far less dramatic and far more technical, with a layperson not understanding a lot of what is happening.
If you are convicted of a criminal offense, the results can be devastating. It may make it difficult for you to get certain jobs, may effect your credibility if you ever testify in court on behalf of another person, or even effect your business as often people doing business will check on such things.
Even if you feel like your certain to be convicted, it is doubtful that you have the information and knowledge to make that determination. If you were sick you wouldn’t diagnose and treat yourself. Why would you handle your own criminal case?
The fact is that an attorney can at the very least give you the peace of mind knowing that you had your case examined and that you did everything you could to fight it. There is no shortage of people why come into my office with previous cases that might have had a different outcome if they had an attorney from the start.