This weekend was the Budweiser Made in America Music Festival in downtown Los Angeles. Between Saturday and Sunday there were about 60 people either arrested or given a ticket to appear in court. What happens now? If one is given a citation or ticket to appear in court at a later date, then usually in three to 8 weeks they will be required to go to court to face either misdemeanor or infraction charges. If someone is physically arrested for a misdemeanor or a felony then they often have to post bail in order to get out of jail and return to court on a specific date to face their charges.
To further explain things: An infraction, like a speeding ticket is punishable by a fine only and not by time in jail. A misdemeanor which could take the form of a ticket or an arrest is punishable by up to a year in county jail and/or a fine. Finally, a felony is punishable by more than one year in state prison and/or a fine.
One way or another you will go to or be brought to court to face your charges at your arraignment. At this time you are formally told what the charges are and given an option of pleading guilty or not guilty. If you are charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony, you have the absolute constitutional right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer, this is the time you will ask to be represented by the public defender. Either way, with the help of your lawyer, you will review any police reports and other evidence, discuss the charges, any potential settlement offers and decide how to proceed with your case.
If you are charged with an infraction, you are not entitled to a public defender however you may hire any lawyer of your choice. In the case of an infraction, it might be possible to resolve you case at the arraignment unless you are not guilty or believe you have a high likelihood of prevailing at trial. In this case, you would enter a not guilty plea and set the case for a trial in about one month.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, the case may require more work before it can be settled or before it gets set for trial. Some felony cases can be settled by agreeing to perform drug education classes and avoiding jail time. Sometimes we can even get the case dismissed upon successful completion of such classes.
More complicated cases may require investigation by a private investigator or the assistance of an expert witness. This process may take some time and may even cost money out of the pocket of the defendant. However, if you lawyer tells you of the importance of investigation or expert opinion in your case, it may be worth spending the money to achieve a desired result.
Eventually, sometimes 60 to 90 days after the arraignment in a misdemeanor and maybe even longer in the case of a felony, the case will either get settled, dismissed or go to trial. Most cases in California are resolved prior to trial, however, in certain circumstances like third strike cases or cases requiring lifetime registration as a sex offender, trial may be the only option to avoid a lengthy prison term or other severe long term fallout.
Some of the consequences of even a misdemeanor conviction can include jail time, driver’s license, community service, loss of right to own firearms, loss of job and more. Please consult a lawyer if you are charged with any crime, especially a serious crime. If you are not a United States citizen, the conviction of some crimes can cause you to be deported, denied naturalization and denied re-entry into the country.
If you or someone you care about has been arrested, charged with a crime or is being investigated for a crime, please talk to a lawyer. You don’t have to call me, but you should call a lawyer who practices criminal defense every day and knows how to help you.