Frequently ASKED Questions
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The county district attorney’s office, sheriff’s office, California Highway Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies represent the interests of victims of crime. If you’re the victim of crime you should report it to them. Although some privately hired attorneys represent victims of crime in criminal cases, the government files the charges and completely handles the case on the victims’ behalf in court, so a private attorney serves as more of a liaison between the victim and the government in that situation. Ryan only represents people accused of crime, not those victimized by such.
An infraction is a crime that cannot be punished with jail or prison, and typically is punished only by a monetary fine. A misdemeanor is a crime where the maximum punishment does not exceed one year in county jail. Felonies are the remaining crimes, most of which are punishable by more than one year in state prison.
Probably not. People usually want their criminal case to end ASAP, but, if you plead guilty at arraignment you could miss out on: an opportunity given by the judge or prosecutor to earn a dismissal of your case (known as a “Diversion” or “Deferred Entry of Judgment”); a plea bargain to reduce the charge or dismiss charge enhancements, or seeing evidence that supports a trial or pre-trial defense.
If you are charged with any misdemeanor, except domestic violence, your attorney can attend court without you as long as the judge didn’t specifically order your presence at the previous court date. I’ve handled many cases where my clients never had to go to court, despite having multiple court dates. Even if you are charged with domestic violence or a felony, although you must go to the first court date, your attorney can appear without you after that by means of a written waiver.
It’s impossible to know for certain, but in my experience, even the simplest of cases take 3 or 4 court dates to resolve: 1st Arraignment (charges not filed), 2nd Arraignment (charges are filed), 1st Pretrial Conference (plea bargain offer received), 2nd Pretrial Conference (plea bargain accepted). RLS Criminal Defense charges a flat fee, regardless of how many court dates your case has or needs.
Although many assume DUI blood and breath analysis is accurate, often it is not. Police tell people to blow “hard” because it makes results up to 200% falsely high; many breathalyzers are programmed to assume an unnatural temperature of your breath to achieve falsely high results. Blood frequently ferments, producing alcohol prior to testing, due to inadequate amount of preservative and lack of refrigeration. These are only some potential problems.
Yes, police are absolutely allowed to lie to a suspect about evidence police have or facts reported by a witness to obtain a confession or other information from them.
Forever. Many people assume a conviction falls off, or disappears, after ten years. There is something called “The 10 Year Lookback Period” but it does not mean what people think. It affects only the punishment one can receive for new criminal offenses, and not the information others can see on a background check. Often, a conviction can be expunged, but that still does not erase it from one’s criminal history/background check. Which is why it is important to fair as well as you possibly can in your criminal case the first time it is being handled.
Suing the police is a Civil matter, not a criminal one, and known as a Civil Rights action. A Civil Rights attorney or law firm could assist you with such circumstances. Ryan does not practice Civil Rights cases.
- Arraignment: The first court date. Court finds out who your lawyer is, or if you need one. Prosecutor can request bail, a bail increase, and/or a victim protection order. “Not Guilty” plea is entered. Ideally, your lawyer now receives the police reports. Another court date, typically for “First Pretrial Conference,” is scheduled.
- Pretrial Conferences: The default limited-purpose court dates. Lawyers talk to the DA; hold plea-bargain negotiations; exchange or discuss evidence; enter settlements; and set dates for future hearings.
- Request Diversion: If eligible, one can request a Pretrial Diversion Hearing, which is essentially a formal request to the judge for the opportunity to earn a dismissal of your case, based on good character evidence.
- Motions: If the police or prosecutor violated laws that require the judge to throw evidence out, or dismiss your case, one can request a Pretrial Motion Hearing to attempt to achieve that result.
- Settlement/Open Plea: Most cases settle. If they settle without a plea bargain, that is called an “Open Plea.”
- Trial Readiness: The last court date before the one for Trial. The last chance to settle for most cases.
- Trial: Typically by jury; a Trial typically lasts anywhere from 3 days to several months depending on the case.
- Preliminary Hearing: In felony cases, before the case has trial, the DA must prove to the judge at a hearing called a “Preliminary Hearing” there is “legally sufficient” evidence to bring the case to trial. “Legally sufficient evidence” however is a much lower standard than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.
Generally, the process is: have Arraignment; gather and review evidence; begin plea-bargain negotiations with the prosecutor; assess the merits and pros/cons of pursuing any Pretrial Motions or a Request for Diversion; attempt counter-plea-bargain negotiations with the prosecutor; present any desired Pretrial Motions and/or a Request for Diversion; settle if desired; have Trial if desired. An Appeal can be filed if the judge made in incorrect ruling on a motion or during trial.