Sacramento Criminal Court Procedure


An “Arraignment” is the first court date. At the Arraignment a Judge explains the charges against you, and then ask you what you want to do with your case. You can continue your case, enter a plea of “Not Guilty,” or your can plead “Guilty” or No Contest. It is generally unwise to plead guilty or no contest at your first court date because you have not seen the evidence against you. If you are charged with a Misdemeanor you must appear on the Arraignment date unless you hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer. In most misdemeanor cases, your Criminal Defense Lawyer can attend Court for you as your representative pursuant to Penal Code 977. If you are charged with a Felony, then you must appear at the Arraignment and you should do so with an Attorney. After the Arraignment there are many court dates for Pretrial Conferences and Motions, and then either a resolution of the case or Trial.

In Sacramento, the District Attorney will make an offer at arraignment in an attempt to settle the case. If the case cannot be settled, then you will enter a “not guilty” plea and set your case for trial if you are charged with a misdemeanor. If you are charged with a felony, after you enter a not guilty plea your case will be set for preliminary hearing.

Pretrials and Motions

Pretrials are Court dates that occur before a trial begins. These dates are meant to facilitate the exchange of evidence and to foster negotiations between the Prosecutor and the Defense. Pretrial Motions can include Suppression Motions (if evidence or statements were illegally obtained by law enforcement); Motions to Dismiss for lack of speedy prosecution or destruction of evidence; hearings on the admissibility of evidence such as scientific test results of blood, breath, or urine samples; Discovery Motions to obtain evidence held by the prosecution, Motions to set aside an information or indictment; Changes of Venue; Motion to Disclose Informer’s Identity; Right to a Speedy trial; Motions to Appoint an Expert Witness to assist in the Defense; Motions to dismiss based on Discriminatory Prosecution; Motion to Recuse a Prosecutor; Motions to Continue; Motions to Disqualify a Judge.

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Preliminary Hearing-Felonies

If you are charged with a Felony in Sacramento or Northern California , and you plead Not Guilty, you have the Right to a Preliminary Examination of the Evidence. You have a right to conduct this hearing within 10 court days of the date that you enter a “not guilty” plea.

At the preliminary hearing, Judge will conduct a hearing where the Prosecutor, has to prove to the Judge through competent evidence that there is some rational ground for assuming the possibility that an offense has been committed and the accused is guilty of it. This is not a high standard and is often referred to as a “probable cause” standard. The evidence against you will usually consist of officer testimony under oath. If after the Preliminary Hearing the Judge believes that you could have committed the crime, your case will continue on to Trial or your case will settle. If you are charged with any Felony, and you intend to fight your case at a Jury Trial, conducting the Preliminary Examination is almost always essential for proper Trial preparation.

Call an experienced Sacramento Criminal Defense Lawyer today (916) 633-1255 to discuss your case.

Jury Trials

In any Sacramento misdemeanor or felony Criminal case you have the right to a Jury Trial where twelve people from the community hear and see the evidence and witnesses against you. They must decide whether the District Attorney or Government has proved your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In most cases there are almost always defenses, and each case requires a thorough analysis by a Criminal Defense Attorney to properly assess and prepare any available defenses. If you do not want to plead guilty or no contest then you are entitled to a trial and you can either have a court trial (where a Judge decides if you’re guilty – that’s almost always unwise), or a Jury trial.

Informal Court Probation

In all Misdemeanor cases the Judge can order you to jail for the maximum time allowed if the Judge so desires. Criminal laws are draconian and most Judges, however, will put you on Probation, and that means that you don’t do the maximum jail time. Instead, the Judge gives you a period of time, usually three or five years, to follow certain terms and conditions imposed by the court. Probation is like a contract between you, the District Attorney, and the Judge. The Terms of Probation can include obeying all laws, usually spending some time in jail, paying fines and fees, and sometimes attending treatment programs at your expense. Court probation, also called Summary or Informal Probation, means that the Judge is going to make sure that you comply with the terms of your Probation, and if you don’t, the Judge can give you some or all of the remaining jail time. Your Criminal Defense Lawyer negotiating the terms and conditions of your Misdemeanor Probation is an essential part of any plea agreement. If you follow your end of the contract or probation, you can successfully complete probation and petition the court for a dismissal (what is commonly referred to as an “dismissal of criminal conviction.”)

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Formal Felony Probation

If you are convicted of any Felony, the Judge order that you serve County or State Prison immediately. When you get out of prison you will have a set of rules to follow, and you will usually be supervised by a Parole Officer. This is referred to as Parole. If the Judge decides not to send you to prison, you will most likely be placed on Felony Probation and that means that you will have a Probation Officer you report to. Probation Officers make sure you follow the terms of your Probation. Probation Officers can search your person, your vehicle, or your house, and can demand a sample of your blood or urine to determine whether you are using alcohol or any drugs. If you violate any terms of your Felony Probation the Judge can either give you additional time in jail and keep you on probation, or terminate probation and send you to Prison on an executed sentence.

Misdemeanor and Felony Warrants

If you do not go to Court, the Judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are accused of violating your terms of probation, the Judge can issue a warrant for your arrest. If you are caught by law enforcement when you have a warrant they will probably arrest you and you will likely wait in jail until the Judge can see you. If you miss a court date or find out that a warrant has issued for your arrest, meet with a Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately to discuss your options.

Hiring a Lawyer

Court is a confusing and intimidating place for most people. If you are arrested or charged with any crime call me immediately and schedule a Free Consultation to meet and discuss your situation. I know the law and how to help you navigate through the Court system. and I firmly believe that what I do is righteous and necessary for a free and just society. Call Today 916-633-1255.

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