Once a felony charge has been filed against a defendant, the case will be set for felony arraignment on either the 8:30am "CC" calendar or the 3:00pm "FA" calendar. Both of these calendars are heard in the Metropolitan Division of the Superior Court located at 1415 Truxtun Avenue in downtown Bakersfield. At the hearing, the defendant will be advised of the charges filed against him and asked if he can afford to hire his own attorney. If he cannot, a representative from the Public Defender's Office will be on hand to accept the appointment. If the defendant can afford to hire an attorney, but has not yet done so, most judges will allow the matter to be continued a couple of days, or up to a week, in order for an attorney to be retained. The attorney will then be expected to enter a protective plea of Not Guilty and the matter will then be set for Pre-Preliminary Hearing and Preliminary hearing on two consecutive court days no more than two weeks later, unless the defendant waives time.
At this hearing, the District Attorney will present defense counsel with an initial offer to settle the case. Most judges that handle this calendar will also involve themselves in the discussion in order to help facilitate settlement. The DA will entertain counter-offers from defense counsel, as will the court. Defense counsel is advised to come to this hearing with a thorough knowledge of the case and the client's position in order to engage in meaningful negotiations. If the matter is settled by plea to any felony, the defendant will be ordered to be interviewed by the Probation Department in preparation for sentencing, which will generally be set roughly 30 days after the entry of the plea.
If the matter cannot be settled, the case will proceed to preliminary hearing on the next consecutive court day.
This is a hearing before a judge only, during which, the District Attorney must present enough evidence to convince the judge that each charge should be set for trial, rather than dismissed for insufficient evidence. At the conclusion of this hearing, the judge will make a ruling as to the sufficiency of evidence on each charge. Some or all charges may be dismissed by the court; however, assuming the DA has presented enough evidence, the case will be set for arraignment on the information.
As a general rule, negotiations are frowned upon at the preliminary hearing stage. Counsel should not expect to engage in negotiations at this stage, unless circumstances have changed from the previous day (pre-prelim) or the DA was asked, and agreed, to "keep the offer open."
Arraignment on the Information
In most respects, this hearing mirrors to original arraignment, although this is always set on the "CC" calendar at 8:30am. Defense counsel will once again be expected to enter Not Guilty pleas and the Court will then assign dates for Jury Trial, Readiness Hearing, and Motions. If counsel anticipates filing and pre-trial motions (e.g., 1538.5, Pitchess, Discovery, etc) that require testimony, 10:00am Motions should be requested. Otherwise, all pretrial motions will be set on the 8:30am "CC" calendar roughly 3 weeks before the trial date.
Although a Motions Date will be set at the Arraignment on the Information, defendants and defense counsel need only be present on such a date if any pre-trial motions are actually filed. Defense counsel should keep in touch with the client to keep him well advised of whether or not he need appear on the Motions date.
This is generally the final opportunity for the District Attorney and defense counsel to engage in negotiations aimed at settling the case before Jury Trial. Once again, the Court takes an active role in the negotiations.
Readiness Hearings are set on Fridays, in Department 1 of the Metropolitan Division at 1415 Truxtun Avenue. They are presided over by the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, although the entry of pleas are usually assigned out to other available courtrooms for the sake of efficiency. Felony sentencing as a result of pleas taken during the readiness hearing are assigned back before the presiding judge roughly 30 days later, at 8:30am. Cases that do not settle are confirmed for Jury Trial, previously set to begin 10 days after the readiness hearing. Jury Trials are always set to start on Mondays and are initially called on the "JT" calendar at 9:00am in Department 1.
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