FELONY – Criminal Defense
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CHARGED WITH A FELONY
First Day in Court
Your first felony court appearance is an arraignment. At this felony hearing you will be notified of the charges against you and your constitutional rights. This will be your first opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty to the felony charges against you. It is never recommended that a person plead guilty at the felony arraignment without having spoken to a criminal defense attorney first. You may have a defense to the felony charges against you without even knowing it! Don’t ruin your chances at a better deal or a complete dismissal by pleading guilty. A plea of guilty is not reversible, but a plea of not guilty can be later changed when you have more information about your felony case.
After entering your plea (of not guilty, remember!) at the felony hearing, dates will be set for your next hearings. For felonies, the next two court hearings are an Early Disposition Conference (EDC) and then a Preliminary hearing (PX). Though you have a right to PX within 10 court days, generally an Early Disposition Conference is set four weeks out and the Preliminary hearing set another 2-4 weeks after that.
The felony arraignment is also the time to request bail, a bail reduction, or an OR (own Recognizance) release if you or your loved one is in custody. If an OR (own Recognizance) or bail reduction is not granted on the arraignment date, a bail review hearing can be set.
In determining whether or not to reduce bail, the courts look at several different factors:
- Are you a flight risk? Meaning is there reason to believe that you will leave and fail to appear in court in the future.
- Are you a danger? Meaning is the crime you have committed a violent crime, do you have priors for violent crimes, and are there other reasons to believe that you are a danger to the community if released.
- Do you have ties to the community? Meaning do you have family and friends in the area, a job, enrolled in school, how long have you lived in or around the county, etc.
- How serious is the present offense? Is it a felony or misdemeanor, does it involve violence, or the taking of a large amount of money or property, all of these are taken into consideration.
The Court will consider these factors and others in deciding whether to reduce your bail. If a reduction is granted that does not mean that no bail will be required, usually this is exactly what it says – only a reduction. Bail may be posted by cash or check with the court or a bond may be purchased from a bondsman usually at about 10% of the amount of bail.
Early Disposition Conference or Program
Both Ventura and Los Angeles counties have hearing dates set prior to a preliminary hearing for the purpose of early disposition of the case. This process is better know as plea bargaining and in the appropriate case may result in reduces charges and a more lenient sentence.
A preliminary hearing can be described as a mini-trial where the district attorney and your criminal defense Attorney puts on evidence. A Preliminary hearing is not as lengthy or detailed as a regular felony trial and this is because the standard of evidence that needs to be met is much lower. There is no jury at a Preliminary hearing and it is the Prosecution’s job to convince the Judge that probable cause exists to believe that a felony crime has been committed and that the defendant committed it. In other words the Judge must find that there is enough evidence to hold the defendant to answer in the trial court.
Technically a Preliminary hearing must be held within 10 days of the felony arraignment; however, often clients are asked to waive the 10 day time so that the hearing can be held at a later date. This additional time will often allow your criminal defense attorney to gather more information and evidence to be used to challenge the prosecution’s case.
A preliminary hearing will often reveal some of the weaknesses in the Prosecution’s case causing the district attorney to amend the complaint at the next arraignment. If a client is held to answer after the Preliminary hearing, an additional arraignment date is set. This is the “Arraignment on the Information” as the Complaint that was originally filed by the district attorney is now called the “Information.” The procedure for the “Arraignment on the Information” is the same as the first Arraignment.
Felony Jury Trial
If your felony case was not settled or dismissed in one of the earlier hearings on your criminal matter, then it will go to jury trial. This is the sort of thing that people see in the movies where there is a jury of 12 people, a judge, and witnesses are put on the stand and questioned by the district attorney and then the criminal defense attorney. Having an experienced criminal trial lawyer is extremely important in ensuring that you obtain the best possible legal representation. Call us at (805) 494-1131 to discuss your case and the possible defenses you may have.