The arraignment is the first court appearance. The purpose of the arraignment is to formally advise you of the charges pending against you and your rights as a criminal defendant. At this part of the legal process, you will plead "not guilty" to the charges and your attorney will argue about any orders against you. A skilled attorney can also help you see your children and discuss visitation with your partner.
Investigation / Discovery
Because of the nature of domestic violence, much of the evidence is based on one person's word against another's. In order to discover both sides to the story, it is crucial to talk to all potential witnesses to the event. An experienced defense attorney will work with investigators to find and talk to witnesses who will be favorable to your side of the story.
Preliminary Hearing (If a felony)
In California felony cases, the accused is entitled to a Preliminary Hearing. This is a hearing in front of a judge, not a jury, that resembles a "mini trial." Witnesses are called to describe the incident. The judge has the discretion to allow the case to go forward as a felony, to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor or to dismiss the case. Preliminary Hearings only happen in felony cases; there are no Preliminary Hearings in misdemeanor cases.
Often when there is a conviction, the judge will ask the probation department to prepare a sentencing report to help the judge decide what sentence to impose. Enhanced sentences have been upheld for prior convictions, a pattern of violent conduct, prior treatment for domestic violence, substance abuse, history of threats to others, great bodily injury or threat of great bodily injury, death threats among other issues.
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