CRIMINAL COURTS FAQ’S
I have been contacted by a detective – what should I do?
If you have been contacted by a detective regarding an investigation into alleged criminal activity, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help with your case. By acting quickly to protect your rights, our attorneys at Seyb Law Group may be able to help you avoid being arrested or charged with a criminal offense.
If I have been accused of a crime, what is going to happen to me?
Being accused of a crime can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are innocent, but you should be aware that you have certain rights that can help you defend yourself against these accusations. For instance, you have the right to remain silent, which means you can refuse to answer questions from law enforcement officers, and the right to legal representation, which is your most important legal right when facing any criminal charge.
If you are arrested for the crime, you will be “booked” or processed by police and taken into custody to await your arraignment, which will be your first formal court appearance. You can be arrested for a crime in Orange County if the police have probable cause to believe you committed the crime or have a signed arrest warrant from a judge. In lieu of an arrest, the police may issue a citation for certain low-level crimes, also known as a notice to appear in court, in which case you will be required to appear in court at a specific date and time to hear the charges against you.
The most important thing to remember is that being accused of a crime is nowhere near the same thing as a conviction. Under Orange County law, you are presumed innocent of a crime unless the prosecution can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and it is your right to hire an attorney to help you fight any criminal allegations you are facing. Contact Seyb Law Group to discuss your best course of action after being accused of a misdemeanor or felony crime.
The Court Process
What is an Arraignment? And should I appear without an attorney?
After you have been arrested for a crime in California, your first court appearance takes place at your arraignment hearing, during which you will hear the criminal charges against you and enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest. If you enter a not guilty plea, the court will address the issue of bail. The arraignment is a critical stage in the criminal court process, and, while you have the right to represent yourself, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney prior to your arraignment to ensure that your legal rights are safeguarded. Call Seyb Law Group today to schedule a free consultation to review your criminal case.
What happens after the Arraignment?
The Pre-Trial Conference
Once you have entered a plea of not guilty and the issue of your bail has been addressed, you officially enter the pre-trial process, the phase during which the majority of Orange County criminal cases are resolved. The purpose of the pre-trial conference or hearing is to attempt to negotiate a plea bargain agreement and resolve the court case prior to trial. At this stage, your defense attorney will obtain your arrest report and other evidence pertaining to your criminal case, and will attempt to negotiate with the District Attorney to reduce the criminal charges to a lesser offense or dismiss the charges altogether. Because most criminal cases in Orange County are resolved during this phase of the criminal court process it is imperative that your attorney understands how to use this pre-trial hearing to your advantage.
One of the main purposes of the pre-trial phase of the court process is to address as many evidentiary issues as possible before proceeding to a jury trial, issues that are typically resolved through “motions,” or requests for the judge to take certain action. Some of the most common pre-trial motions in Orange County criminal cases include: a motion to dismiss, a motion to suppress evidence, a motion to compel discovery, and a Serna motion, also known as a “speedy trial” motion. A hearing may be held to hear these motions, and during the hearing, each side will have the opportunity to argue its position.
If you are facing felony criminal charges in Orange County or the surrounding counties, and the defense and prosecution are unable to resolve the case in the pre-trial stage, the law requires the judge to hold a preliminary hearing, also known as a probable cause hearing. During the preliminary hearing, witnesses will be called to testify, and each side will have a chance to question the witnesses. After considering the evidence presented during the preliminary hearing, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence to “hold you to answer for the charges” at a jury trial. Your defense attorney’s job during this phase of the court process is to attempt to convince the judge that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to proceed to trial.
What should I expect during a jury trial?
Most criminal cases are resolved during the pre-trial stage. However, if a resolution is not reached during the pre-trial stage, or if you and your defense attorney are not satisfied with the results of the negotiations and there is sufficient evidence to try the case, the case will progress to the trial phase of the criminal court process. Any person accused of a misdemeanor or felony offense in Orange County or the surrounding counties is entitled to a jury trial.
During trial, the prosecution will present its evidence against you and your defense attorney will present evidence on your behalf. The jury will then deliberate and reach a verdict of not guilty or guilty, a decision that must be unanimous. If you are found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence for the crime, which may include fines, restitution, imprisonment or other penalties, depending on the facts of the case. If your criminal case is set for a jury trial, it is in your best interest to hire a trial-tested Orange County criminal defense attorney who can present the most effective defense in your case.
How long will my criminal case last?
The length of an Orange County criminal case can vary a great deal, depending on the severity of the crime you are facing and whether the offense is charged as a misdemeanor or felony, among other contributing factors. Although all defendants in criminal prosecutions have the right to a speedy trial, a right that is protected by the Sixth Amendment, some cases can take years to resolve, depending on whether the District Attorney delays the court process in any way. If your case is resolved before trial, which many criminal cases are, it could take as little as 90 days from start to finish. If it goes to trial, the timeline for your case will be significantly longer. Our criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group are committed to helping you get the best possible outcome in your case, and that often means taking the time to gather information, review the facts of your case, identify and interview witnesses, and devise a solid defense strategy.
Will I have to go to Jail or Prison?
Whether you will be sentenced to jail or prison, or neither, depends on the crime you are charged with and the circumstances surrounding your arrest, as well as your criminal history. For instance, if you are charged with a violent felony, or you have multiple prior convictions on your record, you are more likely to be incarcerated upon conviction. To improve your chances of staying out of jail or prison, you should consider hiring an Orange County criminal defense attorney to represent your case. Our defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group will fight for your rights and do everything in our power to help you avoid being sentenced to jail or prison for your crime.
What happens if I have injured someone?
For most criminal offenses in Orange County, the law specifies a range of possible punishments. For instance, a first DUI offense in Orange County carries a potential punishment of up to six months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. However, there are certain “aggravating” factors, or sentencing enhancements, that can make a crime more serious and result in increased criminal penalties upon conviction. Causing injury to another person is a common aggravating factor that can apply to any number of misdemeanor or felony offenses, and the severity of the penalties associated with such a sentencing enhancement typically depends on the extent of the injury.
What if I have prior convictions for the same crime I am charged with in my recent arrest?
There are certain crimes in Orange County that are known as “priorable” offenses, which means the punishment for the crime can increase with each successive conviction. An Orange County DUI, for example, is a priorable offense. A DUI remains on your criminal record for 10 years, and if you are arrested for a subsequent DUI within 10 years of a first DUI offense, the crime will be considered a second offense and a conviction will carry increased penalties. Our DUI defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group are intimately familiar with the ins and outs of Orange County DUI law and how it applies to your case, and we will ensure that you understand the charges against you and the defenses available to you based on your specific situation.
Do I have to appear in court?
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor crime, you may never have to set foot in the courtroom. When you hire our defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group, we will represent your best interests in court on your behalf as often as possible. However, there are some important exceptions to this rule. For instance, if you have been charged with domestic violence, even as a misdemeanor offense, you are required to appear in court. If you have been charged with a felony, regardless of the nature of the crime, you are required to appear at every court hearing.
Does it make me look bad if I don’t appear in court for my misdemeanor case?
No, it does not affect your credibility if you do not appear in court for your arraignment or pre-trial hearings. During these stages of the court process, your criminal defense attorney can appear on your behalf if the criminal charge is a misdemeanor. However, if your case proceeds to a jury trial, your presence in court will be important.
Is it possible to win my case outright and have all my charges dismissed?
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to win your case outright and have all criminal charges against you dismissed. However, it is more often the case that the criminal charges are simply reduced to a lesser offense with less severe penalties. The main objective of our criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group is to secure an outright dismissal or reduction of charges, to prevent a conviction from ever appearing on your record. A criminal record can have serious repercussions affecting your personal and professional life for years to come, and our defense attorneys understand how devastating that would be for you and your family. With a reduced criminal charge, the consequences of a conviction can be far less severe –fines can be decreased, court-ordered program requirements can be minimized, and jail or prison time can be significantly shortened or even avoided altogether. To improve your chances of getting a favorable outcome in your criminal case, contact Seyb Law Group and enlist the help of a top Orange County defense attorney today.