- posted: Sep. 29, 2020
After you have been arrested on criminal charges, the arresting officer takes or sends the police report to one of the sergeants at the station. The Sgt. then forwards it to the filing deputy in the district attorney’s office. The reports are sometimes delayed in filling because paperwork has been misplaced or more info is needed. When the filing Deputy DA reviews it, s/he tries to determine what crimes have been committed and whether it should be a misdemeanor or a felony.
Even though the police officer may have arrested you/cited you for a particular crime, the filing deputy could decide that there were more counts that should be filed and/or less counts. That is why it is often important to retain a lawyer asap so s/he can possibly contact the filing deputy and hopefully have input on how the case is to be filed in other words, to get a second bite of the apple. However, some cases are a direct file to the court, by the arresting agency, thus bypassing the DA.
If the Defendant is in custody we have bondsmen that will Bail you out with NO MONEY DOWN, if you qualify, and they will use a 7- 8% Bond for our client instead of the standard 10%. Bond hearings are no longer in Dept. 2K, you NOW go to the Clerk’s Office. If there is no filing of the complaint on the arraignment date, the matter is continued for 15 days.
Your first appearance is called an Arraignment, for either a Misdemeanor or Felony. Misdemeanor Arraignments are in Department 2K and stay there until Trial and then go to Dept. 3M. On Misdemeanors, we can appear on behalf of our clients, pursuant to a Waiver of Personal Appearance under Penal Code Section 977.
On Felonies, the defendant has to appear each and every time, and those cases are in 3N, 3S (and 3T for drug charges). On felony cases, It is often difficult to get discovery from the DA before a preliminary hearing.
When we appear at the Arraignment, we are supposed to get a copy of the police report, which we forward to our client. We ask you to review it and let us know what looks correct or incorrect. Sometimes, the court Deputy DA has not had a copy of the report for us, and we have to enter a plea of not guilty, and get the report at a later date.
For the court Deputy DA’s to Dispose of a case, they often have to go to a supervisor for authority to reduce or dismiss the charge. It is not easy to obtain. In 2020, the standard offer is jail time on most cases. Of all the 57 Counties in California, Riverside County has had more jury trials than ALL of the other counties COMBINED……………go figure during Covid???
The current District Attorney for Riverside County is Mike Hestrin. He has instructed his deputy district attorneys to not plea bargain and to demand the defendants plead straight up to the charges with maximum sentences. Thus, the court deputies have had limited authority to negotiate. Today the DA’s maintain they will make the best offer at the Arraignment court and the offers go up from there. However because of Covid 19, who knows what will happen in the ensuing months.
This is where your lawyer pays off by trying to convince the prosecutors or by pulling an end run and going straight to the Judge for an indicated sentence. Some prosecutors are easier on certain cases than others, and it is the luck of the draw as to which prosecutor is assigned to your case.
Sometimes they are assigned by the first letter of your last name and sometimes by the last number in your court case number. After we enter a plea of not guilty at the Arraignment in 2K, the matter stays in 2K for misdemeanors. Then, it will be set for a Trial Setting Conference and a Trial in 3T. The day before the last day (before the case, would be dismissed for lack of prosecution), the matter may get sent to downtown Riverside.
Some cases are Wobblers. This means they can be filed as a Felony or Misdemeanor. For instance Domestic Violence (DV) is a wobbler. It can be defined under Penal Code 243(e)(1) as a Domestic Battery or under 273.5 PC, which involves an injury and can be a Misdemeanor or Felony.
There are 4 Defenses to DV:
- It was an accident
- The injury not from this incident
- Self defense or defense of others
- False accusation
On a Felony, after the Arraignment, the matter is set for a Pre-Preliminary hearing or Felony Settlement Conference. At that stage you try to work out a disposition. After that, a Preliminary Hearing will take place where the prosecution has to prove that a crime was committed and that the defendant is connected to the crime. The Prelim is not a stage where you have guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. There just has to be a connection between the charge and the defendant. In the vast majority of Preliminary hearings, the judge rules in favor of the District Attorney, and you have to return to court again for an Arraignment and a subsequent Trial Setting Conference and Trial.
The Indio Courts are always backed up with criminal cases and more so with Covid 19. In the past there have been civil freezes. This means that no civil case goes out to Trial, as all the courts just handle criminal matters. Because the District Attorney will not readily negotiate a plea, the courts are inundated with cases. Because your case is set for a particular Trial date does not mean it will go out on that date. Nor does it mean the case will stay in Indio at the Larson Justice Center.