What are the steps of a felony criminal matter in Los Angeles Superior Court?
ArraignmentThis is the very first court appearance the accused will have and it is the process by which a person is brought before a court to hear and answer criminal charges against the accused. Personal presence is required. If the accused is out of custody, he or she must be on time no matter what.
Six things occur at arraignment:
1.) Defendant is advised of his or her constitutional rights.
2.) Counsel is appointed.
3.) The charges are read to defendant, and a copy of the complaint is provided.
4.) Defendant is invited to enter a plea to the charges.
5.) Bail is determined, which may be different than the presumptive bail amount, or defendant may be released on his or her own recognizance.
6.) A date for the defendant's next court appearance is set. As discussed more in depth below, that next date may be a preliminary hearing if at least one of the charges is a felony, or a pre-trial hearing if charges are mis
Bail Review / O.R. (Own Recognizance)The second step is the bail review. The accused is entitled to bail review within three days of the arraignment. Bail is money that an arrested person gives to a court to ensure that he or she will appear in court when ordered to do so. The Eighth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution requires that bail not be excessive.
Released "on their own recognizance," or "O.R." means if the accused has strong ties to a community, has little or no past criminal record, a job, and is not a danger to the community or a flight risk, a judge may be convinced to grant an O.R. release. Simply put, the accused released on O.R. must simply sign a promise to show up in court and doesn't have to post bail. If the judge denies O.R. release, then a lower bail amount will be requested by your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.
First Readiness / Prelim Setting / Disposition ConferenceThe third step is the first readiness-conference sometimes called a settlement conference or a prelim setting. It is set before the preliminary hearing and is a good opportunity to try and resolve the case through a plea bargain. These conferences also provide an opportunity for your lawyer to obtain from law enforcement and the prosecutor, necessary information called discovery for your defense.
Preliminary Examination - The Preliminary Hearing / Pretrial HearingThe fourth step is the preliminary hearing. If the defendant is charged with a felony, he or she is entitled to a preliminary hearing before a judicial officer within 10 court days of arraignment. (Persons charged with only misdemeanors are not entitled to a preliminary hearing.) The purpose of the preliminary hearing is to weed out weak or unmeritorious charges. Usually it is in your best interest to get this out as early as possible to allow your attorney time to attempt to settle and get prepared for the preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing (a.k.a. "prelim"), which is relatively informal and held before a magistrate (a judge) without a jury, the prosecutor must show that there is a strong suspicion that a crime has been committed and that the defendant is probably guilty. This evidentiary standard is relatively easy to meet, and is far less than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" evidentiary standard used at trial. This means that a defendant may be held to answer upon evide
Arraignment in Trial CourtIf the felony charges are not dropped at the preliminary hearing, you will be arraigned in superior court where your trial will later be held. This is the arraignment after you have been bound for trial at the preliminary hearing and the next settlement conference date is set at this time along with a trial date. This is also an opportunity for your Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to file motions and demand further discovery.
When the defendant is held to answer to a felony charge, the case is transferred to the trial division, where the prosecutor files a new document called "an information", which contains the offenses the defendant is accused of committing. The defendant must be arraigned on the information within 15 days of being held to answer. At the arraignment on the information, all of the procedures that occurred at the initial trial arraignment occur again. At arraignment, the judge will set a
Pre-trial Readiness ConferenceThe sixth step is the second readiness conference this is set up to see if your case can settle. If you cannot settle your case at this readiness conference, you will probably go to trial.
At the pre-trial hearing (which occurs in both felony and misdemeanor cases), the parties may again discuss settlement of the case, discuss possible discovery issues, and make other motions, such as a 995, 1538.5. In every criminal case the prosecutor discloses to the defense who the witnesses will be and what documentary and other physical evidence will be introduced at trial. The initial discovery occurs at arraignment, where the defense is given a copy of the complaint or information, the police report, any statements made to the police by the defendant, any scientific reports (such as breath alcohol test results in a DUI case) and a list of the prosecution
Motion HearingsThe seventh step is the pre-trial motion hearing. This allows the defendant's Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer the opportunity to challenge evidence that the prosecutor may try to introduce at trial.
TrialsThe eighth and final step is the jury trial. If the defendant is answer ready on this date he or she will be assigned out to trial court, and the trial will begin within a day or so. There must be a unanimous verdict for guilt. There will usually be 12 jurors and 2 alternates. In some cases a jury trial is waived and the defendant is tried before only a judge. This is called a court trial.