When you or someone you know has been charged with a felony, it can be a confusing and scary experience. What happens next? What can I do to make my case go as well as possible? In this series I will outline a generic roadmap of a felony case from the side of the Defendant from a bird’s eye view. Your case will be unique and will have twists and turns that this series may not cover, which is why it is important that you hire a lawyer. This series is informational and should not be taken as legal advice for a particular case.
When you are arrested, the knock on the door may be your first notice that you have been charged with a crime. During your arrest there is one thing you can do now that will make your future attorney happy: Remain silent. When facing criminal charges you have an absolute right to stay silent to avoid incriminating yourself. Most people have heard Miranda warnings (the name comes from a Supreme Court) on television or movies. The important thing to remember is that “anything you say can and will be used AGAINST you.” The police and investigators for the District Attorney will not use anything you say FOR you only AGAINST you.
ARRAIGNMENT AND BOND:
When a Defendant has been charged with a crime and arrested, they will have an initial bond set and can have a bondsman bail them out. A bondsman charges 10% of the amount as a fee for promising to pay the court if you fail to appear for your case while you are out. For a low level case your bond will likely be set in the thousands of dollars meaning that you or someone on your behalf will need to pay the bondsman 10% of that, usually in the hundreds. For more serious cases the bond can be much higher and for the most serious of crimes there may be no bond at all.
Whether you can pay your initial bond or not a formal arraignment will be held where a judge will set the official bond. It is usually the same amount unless some new information would lead the judge to believe you are a danger to the public, or an increased flight risk.
PRELIMINARY HEARING CONFERENCES
The next type of court date you will be set for is called a Preliminary Hearing Conference(PHC) in most counties but other counties may use other names such as call docket, attorney date, etc. The purpose of this court date is the same regardless of the name. Your attorney will receive an initial plea offer from the Assistant District Attorney(ADA) on your case called a recommended sentence (you will hear Defense Attorneys and ADA’s call it a rec for short). Your attorney is required by law to tell you any plea offer from the ADA regardless of how bad it is. You will likely have more than one PHC, whether by agreement or because one side requested a continuance. The ultimate goal of the PHC is to set the case for a preliminary hearing which we will discuss in another article. Before your preliminary hearing, your attorney will receive copies of the initial evidence that the police and investigators have gathered and you will begin to form a clearer picture of the strength of the ADA’s case against you.
*This article is informational and should not be taken as legal advice for a particular case. Every case is different and some issues may not be present while other issues not discussed here may be relevant for your case*