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Criminal Law FAQ

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Below are some commonly asked questions about criminal law matters.  Note that the information below is general in nature, and not specific to your facts.  We do offer a free consultation where you can find out how the law applies to your exact situation.  Please call us at 714-795-2346 in order to schedule your free consultation.

 

Myself or a friend/spouse just arrested, how do I get them out of jail?

Being arrested and taken to jail is a scary event for most people. Sometimes you know its coming because you “self-surrender” when you find out a warrant has been issued.  Other times, it comes as a surprise– such as when you are arrested during a traffic stop. In any event, the goal is usually to get out of jail as quickly as you can.

If bail is low, one can often “bail out” quickly. You can use cash for the full amount, in which case you get it all back at the end of the case, as long as all court appearances are made as ordered by the court.

However, many people cannot afford to pay the full amount of the bail.  In some cases, bail can be $50,000 – $100,000. In those cases where the defendant can’t post a cash bond, bail bondsmen are available to “post bail.” A bail bond is essentially an insurance policy.  If you fail to appear, the bail bondsman will be required to pay the full amount of the bail to the court because you failed to appear.  They won’t like that at all, and they will have some time to produce you before they have to pay during that time.  A bail bondsman will typically come looking for you and arrest you if they find you.  This is the whole idea behind the “bounty hunter” who goes chasing after people who “skip bail”.

Since a bail bond is an insurance policy, when you “buy” the policy, you will pay a non-refundable premium, which is set by law in many cases at 10%, in other cases it may be as low as 8%. We can help you find a bail bondsmen to work with in order to get out of jail as soon as possible.

 

 

Do I need to hire a lawyer?

Of course you do! But, you’d expect us to say that.  Honestly, almost always a retained attorney will be able to work personally with you to achieve the very best result. Public defenders play an important role in our justice system, but they are always over-worked with huge case loads, and under-paid.

The top complaint against lawyers is probably that they don’t keep their client advised on what is happening in their case.  If you want an attorney who will respond to your phone calls and e-mails promptly, you should hire a private attorney.

 

 

How much will it cost?

Each person’s case is unique and individual, although there are general guidelines, it is therefore necessary to assess each case individually to determine the issues involved.  Some matters, such as a coerced confession or serious warrantless searches, add significant complexity to the case.

There is a military expression that “time spent gathering information is rarely wasted.”  Because there is usually no charge for an initial consultation, either in person or by phone, if you are targeted in a criminal case, you should contact us for a consultation as soon as possible.

What is the process in a criminal case?

The way a criminal case moves through the system will depend a little on whether it is a felony or misdemeanor case. The system is designed to process a large volume of cases as quickly as possible. Think of it as a pyramid with lots of cases at the bottom, and a few cases actually going to trial at the top. Thousands of arrests are made, so all these people enter the system at an “arraignment,” where the defendant is told the charges against him and a plea of guilty or not guilty is taken. In felonies, one nearly always pleads not guilty at this phase. In misdemeanors, an offer may be made and a person can plead guilty, and is sentenced, often immediately.

If a plea of “Not Guilty” is entered, the next step, some weeks later, for both felonies and misdemeanors is a negotiation session where, after the arrest reports are reviewed and defense attorneys and prosecutors talk, a new offer of settlement is often made, accepted or rejected.

If rejected, for felonies, a preliminary examination is held, where the prosecutor calls witnesses to testify under oath before a judge. The defendant’s attorney can cross-examine the witnesses and analyze their credibility and recollection. If a judge believes there is sufficient evidence he “binds” the defendant over to answer up in a trial. Before trial, technical motions may be heard and another negotiating session with the judge and the attorneys may be held.  NOTE: It is rare for a case to not be “bound over” at the preliminary hearing, but useful information is often obtained at this stage.

Misdemeanors go directly from the first negotiating conference to motions and then trial. Whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor,  you can force the matter to go to trial rather quickly—within 60 days in most cases.

The speed of the case may be a tactical consideration for the defense attorney, taking into account the client’s personal needs and wishes, as well as the client going to programs of rehabilitation, or doing charitable work, or gathering letters and other documents in his/her support to help get a “better deal.” Of the thousands of cases filed, only a small fraction end up in trial.

 

What is a public defender? Can’t I just use a free lawyer provided by the court?

A public defender (PD) is a lawyer who works for the county, and whose job it is to defend indigent (poor) people. If you have the money to afford an attorney, you probably are not eligible to get a public defender. Many PDs are very good attorneys. But all PDs are very over-worked with large case loads and are too often unavailable to meet with clients outside of the court.  Somewhat literally, you may see them ONLY in the courtroom on the day of trial. Some find it very difficult to answer phone messages from clients. The most frustrating experience for a criminal defendant is when he cannot talk to his own attorney, and this is often the case with a public defender.

Remember the general rule: You get what you pay for.  If you have paid next to nothing, you usually get next to nothing.

The police (FBI, Sheriff, law enforcement) want to talk to me, what should I do?

By law, you have the right to remain silent and almost always should do so. If law enforcement wants to speak to you, it is not because they “want your side of the story.”  They are just looking for evidence to use against you, and they will do just exactly that if you let them.  Being contacted by law enforcement is not a good sign, and frequently means you are being targeted in an investigation. If asked for an interview, you should call us right away to aid you through the process.

 

The police want me to give them permission to search my house, garage, car, or something similar. What should I say?

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits a warrantless search in most instances.  If you are asked to consent to a search, it is almost always best to politely, but firmly, decline and demand that they get a warrant.  You should also call us to arrange a consultation about what is happening.

 

I was given a ticket and released with a date to appear in court. What do I do?

Many misdemeanor cases, such as trespass, petty theft, some drug possession cases, minor in possession of alcohol offenses are started with a ticket being issued and the person being released.

The ticket will give a date, time and courthouse to appear. Failure to appear will typically result in a warrant of arrest being issued, and a bail amount of thousands of dollars is normally established.  When you go to court, you may have a chance to speak with a public defender. While pubic defenders are often excellent trial attorneys, the absolute truth is that they are severely overworked and usually cannot give each case very much time.  A public defender might have 50-100 cases that da and probably will not analyze your case and potential defenses thoroughly. They will tell you what the prosecutor is demanding as a “negotiated plea of guilt.” Often pleading to the charge can have serious consequences such as license suspension for 1 year in the case of minor in possession

 


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