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How many times can a criminal case be continued?

Los Angeles, CA |

I am a victim in a criminal case. . . . Two continuances have been granted so far. The first was because the culprit stated that he'd had insufficient time to get an attorney (although he'd been notified more than a month prior). This is an unlicensed contractor case that includes felony charges. A second continuance (for a shorter period of time) has been granted, but I don't know the reason for this one.

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Attorney answers 3


There is no set answer to your question.

A criminal case may be continued for "good cause." This can be unavailability of a necessary witness, illness of counsel, or a number of other things.

It is not at all unusual for the judge to give a defendant time to hire a lawyer. In a felony case, most charge thousands of dollars, and people usually don't have that kind of money set aside for a criminal defense attorney (unless the client happens to be Tony Soprano).

If this is a felony case, there are many court proceedings that are mandatory, even if the case isn't continued.
1) The arraignment, where the defendant makes an initial appearance, if formally notified of the charges in the complaint, and enters a plea. Most of the time that is a "not guilty" plea, although a majority of cases eventually resolve with some sort of plea bargain. It is very unusual for a defendant to plead guilty to a felony at the first court appearance.
2) The preliminary hearing, where the judge determines whether there is even probable cause to hold a trial. The defendant has a right to have this hearing within two weeks of arraignment, but they are often set beyond that time period for the defense to review the reports and do its own investigation, especially when the defendant is out of custody. If the judge decides there is enough evidence, we say the client was "held to answer" or "bound over for trial."
3) Arraignment on the information, which is a new charging document, indicating the judge determined at the preliminary hearing that there is sufficient evidence to hold a trial. The information must be filed within 15 days of the judge's holding order.
4) Trial. The defendant has a right to a trial within 60 days of arraignment on the information. Again, many defendants agree to have their trials set beyond that time period, especially if they are out of custody.

If it is a misdemeanor, there is no preliminary hearing or arraignment on an information, and the time to schedule trial dates is different.

Many other things can delay a trial. For instance, if the defense wants to challenge the charges contained in the information, they can file a motion and get another judge to review the proceedings. If the second judge agrees with the first, the defense can file a writ in the state Court of Appeals and ask for an additional review, putting the trial process on hold until a decision is made.

Bob Marshall
Chico, CA


Criminal cases can drag on for several months, if not years. As the previous answer suggested, there is no set number or limit on continuances. The wheels of justice grind very slowly, just prepare yourself for that and dont sweat it.


I agree with my collegues. There is no set number of adjournments that can occur. Each will typically need to be supported by a cognizable basis that the Court decides to recognize as justificatiojn for the adjournment. Good luck.

This response does not constitute legal advice. Given the nature of this website, it does not create an attorney-client relationship. This answer is provided solely for informational purposes, for you to use as a starting point when speaking directly with a lawyer in your State. I urge you to immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer admitted to practice law in your State before you make any decisions about this case.