General Criminal Defense FAQs
An arrest does not necessarily mean that charges will be filed against you. The arresting agency must first submit the police report to the prosecutor’s office. The local District Attorney or City Attorney then decides what charges to file if any. After your arrest if you keep your mouth shut you may be able to prevent a complaint from being filed against you. Once you start talking to arresting officers or investigators it is very likely that you will make admissions or incriminating statements that will seal your fate and make it more likely that a case will be filed. The best legal advice we can give a suspect is to keep your mouth shut and ask to speak to a lawyer before things get any worse.
If you get arrested, the arresting agency will set a bail amount based on the charges and severity of the case. You can call a licensed bail bondsman who will post the bail on your behalf so that you are released the same day or the following day depending on what time you are arrested. Bail bond agents charge around 10% of the total bail amount as their fee to secure your release. As long as you show up to court as directed you will usually remain out of custody on your posted bail. If you miss your court date then your bail is “forfeited” and a warrant will issue for your arrest.
Own Recognizance (OR) Release referrs to an agreement between a client and the court where the judge agrees to release the defendant without bail if he or she signs an Own Recognizance (OR) agreement. The OR agreement is a promise to appear at all court hearings and it may also include certain conditions imposed by the judge. To determine whether OR release is granted a judge will consider a person’s criminal record, ties to the community and whether or not the person appears to be a flight risk or danger to the community. Our firm works with you and your family before arraignment to compile and present favorable evidence to the judge to help you get an OR release whenever possible.
The first court date is the Arraignment. The law requires that you are arraigned within two days of your arrest, however with weekends and court holidays that time limit is often extended to three or four days. At arraignment the prosecution must present you with a written complaint that includes the charges filed against you. At that point you either admit or deny the allegations by pleading guilty or not guilty. Once you plead not guilty you have the right to a speedy trial within the speedy trial period outlined by the law. A defendant can always give up the right to a speedy trial and postpone the case but that may not be advisable given that speedy trial rights are one of the few weapons in a defendant’s arsenal against the government.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor and you are out of custody you have the right to begin trial within 45 days of your arraignment date. If you are in custody you have a right to a trial within 30 days. If the court or prosecution can not proceed with trial within the time limits then your case may be dismissed unless you agree to postpone it. In felony cases you have the right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of arraignment. Following the preliminary hearing there is an additional arraignment called the “Information Arraignment.” In felony cases you have the right to a speedy trial within 60 days of the information arraignment and if the prosecution is unable to proceed by that time then the case should be dismissed.
At this hearing the DA presents evidence and witnesses to the alleged crime. The defense has an opportunity to cross examine all witnesses and call their own witnesses to testify. By the end of the hearing the judge must determine if there is enough evidence to allow the case to continue to the next stage of the proceedings (information arraignment) before it is set for trial. If there is insufficient evidence presented at preliminary hearing then the judge discharges the defendant and the case is terminated at that time. A defendant has the right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of his arraignment. If the prelim does not begin within 10 days then the case should be dismissed unless the defendant agrees to postpone the hearing.
The police do not have to read your rights. The law only requires them to read your rights before they question you about your involvement in a case. If you are interrogated and police do not read your rights then any incriminating statements you make during that interrogation can be challenged and thrown out of court and will be considered unlawful and inadmissible statements. If you are arrested but not interrogated then there is no legal objection to make about your rights being read to you.
Public defenders (PD’s) are licensed attorneys who often have more experience and knowledge than many private defense attorneys. Unfortunately you do not get to choose your Public Defender and can not request a new one if you are unhappy with their service. Public Defenders generally have a very heavy case load which makes it more difficult for them to communicate with you regularly and to discuss your case in person or over the phone like we do with our clients. Because the PD is appointed at arraignment, you will not have an opportunity to speak with them before your first court appearance. With a private attorney you can talk about bail, OR release and case strategy before you ever step into the courthouse, that is not the case with the PD. The PD provide a valuable service to indigent clients, but if you can afford it you will be better off with a skilled, capable private defense firm.
Assault & Battery
An assault can be a misdemeanor (PC 242) or felony (PC 245), and if a weapon or firearm is used, it may be charged as a felony strike that carries life-long consequences [PC 245(a)(1)]. If the assault results in injury, then a special allegation may be alleged to increase the maximum possible prison sentence and may make the offense a “strike.” The prosecutor makes the final decision about whether the case is filed as a felony or misdemeanor. Contact us before your case is filed. We can gather and present evidence on your behalf to provide the DA with a more thorough understanding of the facts and circumstances of your arrest. We can help mitigate the filing decision in your case and possibly get the case rejected entirely.
Acting in self-defense or defense of others is a legal defense to assault that can result in your case being rejected or dismissed. Police often don’t take the time to collect all the facts, details, and back story behind an alleged incident. Police will often rely on their instincts when evaluating a case or making an arrest. Police then send their reports to the District Attorney and let the prosecutor decide what charges to file if any. If the police do not document the necessary details that support your self-defense claim, you will need a skilled advocate to help you gather the necessary facts and evidence to support your defense. Call us to review and present every legal defense available until we get you the best possible result.
A simple battery charge does not require injury. The legal definition of battery (PC 242) is outlined in the California Penal code as a harmful or offensive touching of another that was not done in self-defense. Despite the fact that you may have been joking around and you did not actually hurt anyone, you can still be arrested for battery if the alleged victim feels that your touch was harmful or offensive.
Unlike battery, assault does not require someone touching another person. Assault is only the attempt to harm or injure another person. A person who swings a bat or a fist at someone and misses is guilty of assault and can be arrested, charged, and sentenced to jail time. They may also be required to pay mandatory court fines and fees.
The legal term for fighting is mutual combat. There is a fine line between battery and mutual combat, depending on who started the fight and whether one party was acting in self-defense. If someone starts a fight with you, the law only allows you to use only “proportionate force” in response, meaning you can’t beat someone unconscious for pushing you. Generally, police don’t see how a fight started, so you need an experienced advocate to guide you and help gather and present evidence and witness statements to prove that you were not the initial aggressor and that you only responded in self-defense.
Domestic violence (DV) is a term used to describe certain criminal charges committed against family members, spouses, or romantic partners. These offenses include physical abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, cyberstalking, or psychological intimidation and control. These offenses have become increasingly more common due to the current pandemic and lockdown, which creates significant tension and stress in the home.
Yes, domestic violence (DV) laws encompass a wide range of crimes, including crimes committed against an ex-spouse, ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, child, step-child, parent, grandparent, or someone that can be considered a family member or co-cohabitant. You do not need to live with the person to be charged with domestic violence crimes.
It is very common for a person to call the police and report their partner, then later ask the police not to arrest them. Police have an obligation to investigate all domestic violence (DV) calls and make a determination as to whether they believe a crime was committed and whether or not a suspect should be arrested for the safety of the alleged victim and their family. The DA will listen to a victim’s concerns, but they may go ahead and prosecute a person over the alleged victim’s objections. If your partner was arrested and you need help, we can walk you through the process and communicate with the DA to make the best of an unfortunate situation. We have successfully secured many DV case dismissals with thorough investigations and aggressive advocacy.
At the time of arrest, most DV suspects are immediately served with a temporary restraining order that requires them to stay away from the alleged victim’s home and job. The restraining order also prohibits any communication or contact with the victim. The order will generally stay in effect until the case is closed or until probation is terminated. The prosecution will generally make an offer to settle the case at the first court appearance. DV cases can result in incarceration or probation. If probation is granted, the law requires that the defendant complete 52 weekly DV classes in addition to statutory fines, fees, and additional jail time or community service as the prosecution deems appropriate. In more serious cases, probation may be denied, and the defendant may be sentenced to serve a lengthy county jail or state prison term. In any case, you will benefit from having a skilled advocate by your side to help navigate the intricacies of domestic violence cases, so call now.
Yes, CPS agents are often called to the scene of a domestic violence (DV) incident to check on the children’s welfare. If CPS agents have concerns that a suspect poses a risk to the children, they can tell the alleged DV victim that they will remove the kids for their safety if the suspect is not removed and served with a restraining order to protect the children. The alleged victim is often forced to make a difficult choice between their partner or their kids. In these stressful moments, it’s crucial to have a zealous advocate to stand by you and guide you through this emotional and challenging ordeal.
Domestic violence offenses can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Each case is different and the facts and severity of the case will determine whether the case is filed as a felony or misdemeanor. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you could be facing up to one year in county jail on top of standard fines and fees. If you’re accused of a felony, you could be facing a lengthy prison term in the California State Prison system, as well as the mandatory fines and fees. Your best option when arrested for DV is to keep your mouth shut and talk to a lawyer, not the police.
There are different defenses to certain drug charges, so if you are arrested for drugs, keep your mouth shut and tell the police you want to speak to a lawyer. Even if you have made statements or admissions to the police, we can still help resolve your case and get the best possible outcome. We specialize in finding alternative sentences that keep you out of custody so call us today for a free consultation.
We can help find alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders. We specialize in finding alternative treatment programs for clients with a history of substance abuse. We prepare mitigation packets to present to the prosecution to encourage them to allow our clients to undergo substance abuse treatment that can help turn their lives around and set them on a path to success. Call our office to discuss your options further.
Many clients with substance abuse issues are also diagnosed with mental health conditions. Our clients often self-medicate to address anxiety, paranoia, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or a number of other conditions. We work with counselors and treatment facilities to help our clients find dual diagnosis treatment programs that address the underlying causes of the drug use to help get their lives back on track. Call us today to discuss your options.
Yes, even prescription medication is unlawful when the prescription does not belong to you. If police find a prescription pill bottle in your car, purse or backpack and it belongs to someone else, you can be arrested for possession, sales or transportation of a controlled substance depending on the specific facts and circumstances. If this happens to you, don’t talk to the police, call us, we can help.
Theft & Robbery
There are a number of theft charges in the penal code. Whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor depends on the value and circumstances of the alleged theft. Theft of more than $950 in cash, goods or services is generally charged as a felony in California. Theft from a residence is a felony strike. Theft involving force or fear is felony robbery, a serious and violent strike offense. Less than $950 is charged as a misdemeanor pursuant to Prop. 47.
Vehicle theft is defined as taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. If you borrow your brother’s car without permission, he can report you and have you arrested for auto theft in violation of Vehicle Code section 10851. If you can prove you had permission to use the car then you have a legitimate defense and may be able to avoid a conviction.
Some clients who are caught shoplifting are surprised to find out that the prosecutor charged them with felony robbery in violation of California Penal Code section 211, a serious and violent strike offense. In California, a misdemeanor shoplift can be charged as a robbery if the suspect uses force or fear to in the course of the theft. That means if a shoplifter bumps the security guard on his way out of the store, the offense becomes a robbery. If you’ve been charged with a robbery, you have options, call us for a free consultation.
On November 4, 2014, California voters passed Prop. 47, which reduced certain drug and theft offenses to misdemeanors. The law established a threshold of $950 in order to charge a theft as a felony. Theft crimes involving more than $950 in property or loss are still treated as felonies. Residential burglaries and robbery offenses are also still considered felonies regardless of the loss amount.
White Collar Crime
White-collar crime refers to financial crimes that are generally non-violent theft-related offenses. These offenses may include bank fraud, money laundering, forgery, counterfeiting, insurance fraud, identity theft, tax fraud, welfare fraud, and credit card fraud, to name a few. These types of offenses are generally characterized by deceit or deception and generally involve a higher level of sophistication and planning than other types of theft offenses.
White-collar crime is treated as a serious offense that may be prosecuted at the Federal or State level. There is a common misconception that white-collar criminals don’t go to jail because their offenses are usually non-violent and often involve business professionals with minimal or no criminal record. The US and California legislature have enacted strict criminal penalties for white-collar offenses that may carry mandatory prison terms based on the extent of the loss. There are certain enhancements imposed at different monetary values of loss, which can significantly increase the custody time associated with the offense. A skilled defense attorney can help you navigate the intricate legal process of white-collar crimes. We provide valuable guidance and strategies to our white-collar clients to help mitigate your losses and potentially avoid incarceration. Call us now for a free consultation.
White-Collar crime investigations can be long and drawn out. These investigations start even before the time of arrest, and the investigations involve extensive record gathering and analysis. It is not unusual for the agents to contact a suspect or serve them a subpoena to provide documents before any charges are filed. The best course of action in this situation is to call an attorney immediately and allow the lawyer to communicate on your behalf. Any statements made during the course of the investigation will be recorded and later used as evidence. It is imperative that the client does not volunteer evidence that may be harmful, false or inconsistent with the facts. If you are contacted by law enforcement about any white-collar investigation, you have the right to remain silent and the right to call your attorney first. Call now so we can help you prevent a bad situation from becoming much worse.
Any time you sign an application or government document stating “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct,” you better be sure that the information you provide is in fact 100% true and correct. We represent clients who are charged with perjury for submitting false or misleading documents, including loan applications, government assistance forms, unemployment applications, or applications for other types of aid or assistance. If you provide false information, your signature under penalty of perjury is all the evidence needed to file perjury charges that can land you in jail. There are, however, some defenses. If you find yourself in this situation, please talk to an attorney before you talk to the police. We provide free consultations and can give you the guidance and understanding you need to navigate this stressful process.