The American criminal justice system affords many rights and protections unheard of in most other countries. As such, our system can be complicated and confusing, especially if you have never been arrested until now. However, certain procedures and protections are in place to ensure that you have the ability and the right to mount an effective defense against the State if accused.

The majority of criminal cases begin with an arrest. Once you have been arrested, you have the right to be seen before a judge in a court of law within a matter of days.

This first court hearing is called an arraignment. At this stage of the criminal case, the judge will formally read the criminal charges filed against you by the District Attorney’s Office. You will have the option of either pleading no contest, guilty or not guilty, or you may be able to continue the case in order to secure the services of an attorney. If you cannot afford to hire your own attorney, one will be provided to you by the State.

If you enter a plea of “no contest” or “guilty,” the case will be set for judgment and sentencing. A plea of “no contest” is essentially the same as a “guilty” plea, but one major difference exists. You cannot be held civilly liable for the crime if you plead “no contest.” However, if you choose to plead guily you may be held liable in a later civil case based on the same facts and/or acts of the criminal case.

If you plead “not guilty,” the case will be set for a pre-trial conference or pre-trial settlement. Negotiations should then ensue between your defense lawyer and the District Attorney’s office. If no resolution or settlement can be worked out, the case will go to trial in front of a judge and twelve people who will make up the jury.

Before trial and possibly before the pre-trial conference, there are other hearings and motions that your criminal defense lawyer may deem to be appropriate. For example, motions to suppress evidence under Penal Code section 1538.5 are appropriate if it appears the police failed to follow proper legal procedure, evidence was gathered as a result of the violation, and this same evidence is going to be used against you. Sometimes, a successful motion to suppress may completely destroy the prosecution’s case and they will be forced to dismiss. Competency hearings or mental evaluations are also appropriate when the suspect’s mental state is in question; if a suspect could not understand that what he or she did was wrong or cannot understand the nature of the proceedings, there may be some defense regarding the suspect’s mental state.

Jury trial is the last phase before judgment and sentencing. All persons living within the United States, whether they are U.S. citizens or legal residents, have the right to a jury trial. If the 12 people comprising a jury all agree that you are innocent, you are entitled to an acquittal. If the twelve jurors agree that you are guilty, you will be convicted. A hung jury may result if the jurors simply cannot decide upon a unanimous verdict after long and serious deliberation.

If your case goes to judgment and sentencing, a judge will decide what your sentence will be. This is done according to statutory guidelines and the discretion of the judge.

The Law Office of Derek J. King handles criminal, juvenile delinquency, DUI, and traffic matters throughout the greater Sacramento County area and the surrounding areas of Yolo, El Dorado, and Placer Counties. If you or your child have been arrested, charged with a crime, DUI, juvenile offense, or traffic ticket, Mr. King rigorously advocates to protect your Constitutional rights and personal freedoms before the Court passes judgment.

 

Phone: 916.749.6445

Email: [email protected]

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