What is a Felony?

This is a criminal charge which carries a punishment which may result in confinement in state prison.

What is a Misdemeanor?

This is a criminal charge which carries a maximum punishment of no more than one (1) year in the county jail.

How Do I Choose A Bail Bondsman?

The law firm of Shevin & Lentz has relationships with Bail Bondsmen throughout the state and Bail arrangements can usually be made without collateral. Easy payment plans are also available. Call us at 310-XXX-XXXX to get a bail referral.

How Does The Court Process Work?

Whether an individual is in custody or free on bail, the actual court process is the same. The major difference is that an individual in custody must be brought before a judge within two (2) days. Following an individual's arrest on criminal charges, the arresting officer presents a police report to a prosecuting attorney who then decides what charges, if any, will be filed. This stage of the process is termed the pre-arraignment or pre-complaint stage. Many times, cases can be dismissed at this early stage without the need for a court appearance.

What Happens At The Arraignment?

Once a complaint is filed by a prosecutor, the defendant is notified of the charges formally at the arraignment. Typically, a not guilty plea is entered at this arraignment, however, cases may also be resolved at this stage when factual and legal issues are not in dispute.

What Is The Pre-Trial Process?

The pre-trial process in the criminal justice system is not the same for all cases. In felony cases, the prosecutor must present his case to a judge during a preliminary hearing before the case is sent to a trial court. Many criminal matters can be resolved before they actually proceed to trial. Some are dismissed based upon a variety of tactics and legal procedures taken by the defendant and his attorney. Sometimes matters can even be resolved before charges are ever filed if the prosecutor can be convinced that the evidence is not strong enough against a suspect to justify filing a case and wasting the court's time. On other occasions, effective defense attorneys are able to quickly identify flaws in the prosecutor's case, such as an illegal search and seizure, entrapment, or other technicality, and convince the prosecutor's office to not file charges, or if charges have been filed, to get them dismissed In essence, the pre-trial stage of the criminal process allows defendants to evaluate the strength of the case in order to determine if a plea bargain should be negotiated or the case should be presented to a jury. Examples of pre-trial motions include:

-- Motions to Dismiss for Insufficient Evidence (Penal Code section 995);
-- Motions to Quash Search Warrant;
-- Motions to Suppress Evidence;
-- Motions for Discovery of Favorable Evidence to the Defense;
-- Motions to Reveal the Identity of Confidential Informants; and
-- Motions to Exclude Evidence at Trial.

What Is A Preliminary Hearing?

Preliminary hearings are a critical step of the process as this is an opportunity to cross examine prospective witnesses in order to challenge their credibility and file motions to challenge the admissibility of the evidence and dismiss the case. In misdemeanor cases, a preliminary hearing or indictment is not required and therefore cases proceed directly to trial.

What Is A Grand Jury Indictment?

In very serious state cases and in Federal cases, the prosecutor presents his case to a grand jury, instead of a judge, who then decides if sufficient cause exists to send a case to trial. This is called a Grand Jury Indictment. 

Will I Have To Go To Trial?

Criminal cases which are punishable by a jail or prison sentence carry with them a right to a jury trial as opposed to a trial before a judge. The only exception to this rule is for cases charging less than one ounce of marijuana where the maximum punishment is a fine of $100.00, but a defendant still has a right to a jury trial. At a trial, twelve members of the community are chosen to listen to the evidence. In order to find a defendant guilty, all twelve jurors must unanimously find that the defendant has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. When all twelve jurors agree a defendant is not guilty, the result is an acquittal and a defendant is forever released from any further prosecution for the case. When the jurors fail to agree unanimously, this results in a mistrial, which then allows the prosecution to re-file the case and proceed to trial again.

What Is The Appeals Process?

Following conviction or an unfavorable legal ruling by a judge, a defendant may file an appeal which results in the review of previous ruling by a panel of judges in the Court of Appeals. When an Appeals court agrees with the challenged result, this is referred to as "Affirming"; When an Appeals court disagrees with the prior result, this results in the case being "Remanded" for another hearing consistent with the Appellate decision, or "Reversal" which over-rules the prior result and concludes the matter.