Felony charges are serious and come with harsh penalties. The best thing you can do if you are arrested for a felony is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to evaluate the details of your arrest and build you a strong defense.
An experienced defense lawyer will guide you through what can be an overwhelming legal process and will fight to minimize your penalties by getting your charges reduced if not dismissed completely.
In this blog we will provide a brief overview of the legal process for felonies. Keep in mind that the process may be different based on your individual circumstances as well as whether you have a criminal defense attorney.
The prosecutor will file a complaint with the judge. In many cases the plea is entered as “not guilty.” At this time, the judge will set the bail amount, meaning the amount of money to be put up to ensure you return to court. The judge will also set your next court date during the arraignment. If you have a criminal lawyer with you, he or she might request a bail hearing to try and reduce the amount of bail. Sometime the judge will release a defendant on his or her own “recognizance.”
Bail Review Hearing:
During a bail review hearing, the judge will determine if your bail should be reduced or eliminated. Judges, under California law, have a great deal of discretion when setting bail amounts. During the review, the judge will decide if your bail should be modified based on arguments from your criminal lawyer and from the prosecutor.
Factors the judge might consider include the seriousness of the alleged crime, whether you have a criminal history, the likelihood that you will return to court and the safety of the public. Getting the bail amount reduced for felonies is much more difficult than for misdemeanors.
During a pretrial hearing the judge will be presented with arguments from both your criminal lawyer as well as from the prosecutor in what is informally called a “plea bargain.” While your lawyer will advise you on whether you should accept the plea bargain, the decision is ultimately up to you. If you choose to accept, the judge will either issue your sentence immediately or will set a sentencing date. If you reject the plea agreement offer, the court will set a date for a preliminary hearing.
At this point, your criminal attorney and the prosecutor will present their arguments and evidence to the judge. The judge will also hear from any witnesses or law enforcement officers at this time. Based on the evidence, the judge will make the decision to dismiss your charges, reduce your charges, or rule that the charges against you are valid. After the judge makes his or her decision, another arraignment date will be set.
The arraignment will occur within 15 days of your preliminary hearing; you will be ordered to appear on a charging document called “information.” At this point, you will likely enter a plea of “not guilty.”
At this point, the judge will work with your lawyer and the prosecutor to agree to a resolution to the case in an attempt to prevent the need for a trial. If they can't come to an agreement, a trial date will be set.
Under California law, your trial must start within 60 calendar days from the arraignment. If the trial doesn't begin within 60 days, your charges will automatically be dismissed. The criminal trial can be as quick as one day or can last for weeks. During the trial, the prosecutor will present evidence before a judge or jury and try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. Having a skilled criminal defense lawyer is necessary during a trial; he or she will fight aggressively on your behalf to prove that you are not guilty or at least to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the judge and jury.
The judge makes the final decision. But, your defense lawyer and the prosecutor will request a sentence they feel is appropriate and then the judge will decide.
If you are convicted of felony charges, you will have the right to appeal your case.
The criminal law process can be complicated and overwhelming. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney to guide you through the process and to protect your best interests can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. To speak with an experienced and highly skilled Los Angeles criminal lawyer, no matter what stage of the process you are in, contact the Sigal Law Group.