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What are the Steps in a Misdemeanor case ?
An arrest can be with a citation that you sign and promise to appear in court, or the police can make an arrest by taking him or her (the defendant) to jail.
1. The defendant is released if the prosecutor (usually the district attorney or the city attorney) decides not to file charges; or
2. The defendant posts bail (also called a “bond”) or is released based on a promise to appear in court at a later date for arraignment. If either of these occur, the district attorney or police should tell the defendant when to come to court.
3. The defendant stays in jail.
How a Misdemeanor Case Starts
1. Usually, the police cite or arrest someone and write a report. This report should explain the criminal charge and events leading up to the arrest. A police report should provide witnesses’ names and other relevant information. Defendants generally do NOT have a right to get a copy of the arrest report, but their lawyers do. The reason for this is to protect the identity of witnesses. This is one reason why it is important that a defendant charged with a misdemeanor to have a lawyer to represent him or her.
2. The prosecutor ( District Attorney, DA) decides whether to file charges. The DA may dismiss or add charges based on the information in the report, and the prior criminal history of the defendant. Thus a simple DUI can now be a DUI with a prior and a violation of probation, and a DUI. The prosecutor decides whether to charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor, or infraction.
3. Because defendants have a right to a speedy trial, the prosecutor must generally file charges within 48 hours of the arrest when the defendant is in custody (in jail). Weekends, court holidays, and mandatory court closure days do not count toward the 48 hours. Also, the deadline for arraignment depends on what time of the day you were arrested.
The Arraignment - Plead Guilty or Not Guilty. The arraignment is the first time the defendant appears in front of a judge in this case.
At the arraignment, the judge tells the defendant:
1. What the charges are,
2. What his or her constitutional rights are, and
3. That if he or she does not have enough money to hire a lawyer, the court will appoint a lawyer free of charge.
The defendant may to the charges by entering a plea.
• Not Guilty means the defendant states he or she did not commit the crime.
• Guilty means the defendant admits he or she committed the crime. Then a judge finds the defendant guilty and enters a conviction in the court record.
• No Contest means the defendant does not contest (disagree with) the charge. This plea has the same effect as a guilty plea, except the conviction generally cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit.
If the defendant is in custody at the time of arraignment, after the defendant enters a plea (responds to the charges), the judge will:
• Release the defendant on his or her “own recognizance” (which means the defendant promises to return to court on a specified date), OR
• Set bail and send the defendant back to the jail until the bail is posted, OR
• Refuse to set bail and send the defendant back to jail.
“Bail” is money or property that a defendant puts up as a promise to return for future court dates. When setting the amount of bail, the judge takes into account the seriousness of the crime, whether the defendant is a risk to the community, and whether he or she is a “flight risk” and likely to run away.
After the Arraignment In misdemeanor cases, if the defendant enters a not guilty plea, after the arraignment and before the trial:
1. The prosecution and the defense exchange information. This is called “discovery.” Defendants may be limited in what information they are able to see, but their lawyers usually are not. This is because lawyers are required by law to protect the identity of witnesses while still preparing a defense so that the witnesses are not put in jeopardy. This is why it is so important that a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or felony be represented by a lawyer.
2. Either side can file pretrial motions, including motions to set aside (cancel) the complaint, to dismiss the case, or to prevent evidence from being used at trial.
3. The defendant can change his or her plea to guilty or no contest.
4. The judge and lawyers from both sides may talk about how the case can be resolved without going to trial.
The prosecution and the defense exchange information. This is called “discovery.” Defendants may be limited in what information they are able to see, but their lawyers usually are not. This is because lawyers are required by law to protect the identity of witnesses while still preparing a defense so that the witnesses are not put in jeopardy. This is why it is so important that a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or felony be represented by a lawyer.
1. Either side can file pretrial motions, including motions to set aside (cancel) the complaint, to dismiss the case, or to prevent evidence from being used at trial.
2. The defendant can change his or her plea to guilty or no contest.
3. The judge and lawyers from both sides may talk about how the case can be resolved without going to trial.
Defendants in criminal cases (other than infractions) have the right to have a jury to decide their guilt or innocence. Therefore, before trial, defendants need to decide whether to have a jury trial (where the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not) or a court trial (where the judge decides). Usually, defendants choose to have a jury trial because they want a jury of their peers to hear the evidence and decide their guilt. But sometimes there may be circumstances where a defense attorney will recommend a court trial without a jury.
Everyone accused of a crime is legally presumed to be innocent until they are convicted, either by being proved guilty at a trial or by pleading guilty before trial. This means that it is the DA's burden to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty and must provide proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the right to remain silent and that silence cannot be used against him or her. This means you re not requited to testify in court on your own case, but might want to. You should discuss this with your attorney.
• Click here for information on California DUI Laws http://chicoduiattorney.com
Click here for the CA DMV website on DUI http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/driversafety/