Q: “Can I go to court without an attorney?”
A: You should always be represented in court by an attorney when facing criminal charges. You should especially have an attorney when you are innocent but also when you intend to plead guilty. An attorney will facilitate the best possible outcome for your case in ways that you may not know are possible. Additionally, if you appear in court without counsel, there is the possibility of being taken into custody. An attorney can often help prevent this from happening.
Q: Do I have to go to court?
A: If you are charged with a misdemeanor, most courts will allow the attorney to handle every aspect of the case up to trial without you being present. This is one of the great benefits of hiring an attorney. If you are charged with a felony you will have to attend all court hearings and you must be on time!
Q: “No one read me my rights. Does that matter?”
A: The only time that you must be advised of your Miranda Rights (“You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you can’t afford one, one will be appointed at no cost.”) is if the arresting officer intends to question or interrogate you about the offense once you are in custody. Technically, you are in custody once you are handcuffed and are placed inside the police vehicle. Interrogation also commonly occurs at the police station. A voluntary meeting with the police does not require the advisement of rights. Only a custodial interrogation requires that your rights be read.
Bear in mind that anything you say WILL be used against you so it is always best to remain silent and hire an attorney as soon as possible!!
Q: “What if the alleged victim doesn’t want to press charges.”
A: Once the police are called and the case is sent to the District Attorney’s office, they are the only ones who can decide whether or not to file a case. Once a case is filed, only the District Attorney can decide to dismiss the case. Unfortunately, the notion of pressing and dropping charges is mostly a fiction that we see on television and in movies.
Q: “What happens next?”
A: The first court appearance is called the arraignment. At this hearing, the attorney receives a copy of the charges and usually a copy of the police report for your case. Your attorney will enter a plea of not guilty and set a date to return to court for a pre-trial where negotiations can occur to settle your case. The attorney sometimes appears at numerous pre-trials while gathering evidence and presenting it to the district attorney in an attempt to get the best possible result for you. If the case cannot be resolved, then the case proceeds to trial. However, most cases do settle without the need to go to trial.
If the case is a felony, there is also a preliminary hearing. This hearing requires the district attorney to present enough evidence to the court for the court to find that probable cause exists to believe that you committed this crime. This is a very low standard and most cases do proceed beyond preliminary hearing. You have a right to a preliminary hearing within 10 court days or 60 calendar days of your arraignment. This protects your right to a speedy trial.
There are also numerous motions that can be run throughout the course of any criminal case. The most common of these is a motion to suppress the evidence in the case based on an unlawful search and seizure. If the arresting agency violated your constitutional rights, the evidence must be thrown out which will result in the case being dismissed.
Q: “What happens at a trial?”
A: First the attorneys address any legal issues that may need to be dealt with prior to picking a jury. Then the jury is selected. This process can last several hours and sometimes days. Depending on the type of case it is, each attorney is generally given the opportunity to reject 10 of the prospective jurors. Once a jury is chosen, the attorneys make their opening statements. This is where they tell the jury what evidence they will hear and see. The district attorney then puts on their witnesses. The defense attorney is given the opportunity to cross-examine, or question each witness. Once the district attorney has presented their case in chief, the defense presents their witnesses and evidence. The district attorney also has the opportunity to cross examine these witnesses and sometimes presents rebuttal witnesses. Once all of the evidence is presented, the attorneys make their closing arguments. The judge then reads the jury instructions and the jury retires to the jury room to deliberate. This process can take minutes, hours or days. Once the jury has reached a verdict, it is read in open court. If the defendant is found not guilty, then they are free to go. If they are found guilty, a future date is set for sentencing.
Q: “What about bail?”
A: Many times people are not taken into custody but are released on their own recognizance. However, if bail has been set you should contact a reputable bail bond company to post bail for you. It is possible for the attorney to argue that bail should be lowered or that the defendant should be released. However, if you choose to contact a bail company, be prepared to pay a fee that is usually 10% of the bail amount. This fee is not refundable. If you are represented by counsel the bail bondsman can reduce that amount to 8%. If you pay the entire bail amount directly to the court and all court appearances are made, then your money is refundable once the case is concluded.
Bail in Federal Court is based on a completely different system.
Q: What are my speedy trial rights?
If you are charged with a misdemeanor you have a right to a trial within thirty (30) days of your arraignment if you are in custody. You have a right to a trial within forty five (45) days of your arraignment if you are out of custody.
In many cases people “waive time” or “continue” the trial so that they may conduct further investigation or subpoena witnesses. Sometimes people like to age a case for various other reasons such as scheduling conflicts.
If you are charged with a felony you have a right to a preliminary hearing within 10 court days or 60 calendar days of your arraignment. If you are “bound over” or held to answer for trial you will then be arraigned again in another court. Once you are arraigned there you have a right to a trial within 60 days of that date. Many times trials are continued to a later date. If your trial is continued past the 60 day time frame then you have a right to a trial within a “reasonable time.”
Q: What is a Preliminary Hearing?
A Preliminary hearing is a hearing where the court hears testimony of witnesses to determine whether there is sufficient reason to believe that you probably committed the crimes charged. The standard of proof is very low. It is not a beyond a reasonable doubt standard as in trial. Hearsay is also admissible at the preliminary hearing so officers usually testify to the facts of the case at the preliminary hearing. If the judge finds that there is sufficient evidence to believe that you probably committed the crime or crimes charged you will be “bound over” or “held to answer” for trial in your case.
Q: What is the difference between a Misdemeanor, Felony and an Infraction?
A misdemeanor is generally a more minor offense. Some examples of misdemeanors are driving under the influence, petty theft, trespass, second degree commercial burglary, assault and battery, under the influence of a controlled substance, vandalism, disturbing the peace, public intoxication. The punishment for a misdemeanor cannot exceed one year in a local jail. Misdemeanors are not punishable by incarceration in state prison.
In many cases, an experienced criminal defense attorney can get misdemeanor charges reduced to infractions. An infraction is not punishable by imprisonment. A person charged with an infraction is not entitled to a trial by jury. Any trial on an infraction case would be decided by a judge.
A felony is a more serious offense. Some examples of felonies are possession for sale of narcotics, first degree burglary, rape and murder. A felony is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment in state prison. Prison sentences can run from 16 months to life in prison depending on the crime. It is possible to be sentenced to “local time” or time in county jail rather than state prison on a felony and in some cases, no time at all.
There are many crimes that can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor. These are called “wobblers”. Some examples of “wobblers” are assault with a deadly weapon, grand theft. If you are represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney they may be able to have the felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor pursuant to penal code section 17 (b).
The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle has successfully obtained many reductions from felonies to misdemeanors and many misdemeanors reduced to infractions for her clients over the years. She has also obtained many dismissals on both felonies and misdemeanors as well as not guilty verdicts.
Q: Can I get my case expunged?
If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor and you successfully complete your probation term along with all of the terms and conditions of your probation and you have committed no further law violations, you can file a motion to have your case dismissed pursuant to penal code section 1203.4. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you with this process.
If you have been convicted of a felony that is considered a “wobbler” an experienced criminal defense attorney can file a motion to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor for you pursuant to penal code section 17 (b). Once that motion is granted, you can file a motion to have your case dismissed pursuant to penal code section 1203.4. The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle can assist you in this process.
Q: Do the police need a search warrant?
Any search or seizure that is conducted without a warrant is presumed to be unlawful. This is also true if there was a warrant but the items seized were not named in the warrant. There are exceptions to the search warrant requirement.
The fourth amendment of the United States Constitution provides that a search warrant is issued only “upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation” it must particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. Illinois v. Gates (1983) 462 U.S. 213.
The first exception is consent. If someone who has authority to give consent to search the premises, vehicle, container, purse, phone, gives the officers or agents consent to search, no warrant is required. There is often a conflict over whether or not consent was given. Very often people are intimidated by the presence of a law enforcement officer and will give consent because they don’t know that they do not have to give consent to search unless the officer has a warrant. In many cases, the police report will indicate that consent was given when in fact, it was not. It then becomes a matter of “he said, she said.” If witnesses are present during a search they may be needed to testify at a hearing on this issue.
Another exception to the search warrant requirement is the “plain view doctrine”. If law enforcement sees contraband in plain view they may search without a warrant. For example, if the police pull you over for speeding and they see a bag of marijuana sitting on the center console of your vehicle, they can search your car.
“Exigent circumstances” is another exception to the search warrant requirement. If law enforcement has reason to believe that a crime is currently being committed and they can stop some harm from occurring or they believe that evidence is being destroyed and they can prevent its destruction, they can enter the premises or act without a search warrant.
The police are not required to leave a copy of the search warrant at the location of the search although they often do. Police are required to leave a receipt for any property taken pursuant to Penal Code section 1535.
If a search was conducted without a warrant or if the search with a warrant was unreasonable because the warrant was not sufficient on its face, the property or evidence obtained was not described in the warrant, there was not probable cause for the issuance of the warrant or there was any other violation of state or federal law, The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle has extensive experience in arguing motions to suppress the evidence obtained during the search pursuant to Penal Code Section 1538.5. In many cases where the evidence is suppressed, the prosecution cannot pursue their case and the result is a dismissal of the charges.
Q: Do I need an attorney if I just want to plead guilty?
Absolutely, yes! You should always be represented by an attorney when facing criminal charges. Prior to pleading guilty to any crime you should always have an experienced criminal defense attorney review your case to determine if you have any defenses or if any of your constitutional rights have been violated. If any constitutional violations have occurred, it is possible for your attorney to file a motion to have the evidence suppressed which could result in the dismissal of your charges.
Most importantly, an experienced criminal defense attorney can often negotiate with the prosecution or the court to get charges dismissed, changed or reduced and can very often negotiate a reduced sentence. An experienced criminal defense attorney can also advise you of the possible alternatives to serving jail time.
You have many constitutional rights that you will have to give up in order to plead guilty. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of these rights as well as the other consequences of pleading guilty.
Q: What are the consequences of a felony conviction?
In addition to any punishment you may face for your conviction, a person who has been convicted of a felony will lose the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the right to serve public office and the right to possess a firearm.
If you are not a United States Citizen you could be deported, be denied admission to the United States or be Excluded from Naturalization.
Before pleading guilty to any crime it is always essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Q: What are my Constitutional Rights?
You have a right to a speedy and public trial by jury.
You have a right to be represented by an attorney at all stages of the proceedings. If you can’t afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.
You have a right to be presumed innocent. This means that you do not have to prove your innocence. The prosecution has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard of proof in our country.
Unfortunately, in reality, you do have to prove your innocence which is why you always need to be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney who can fight your case for you. Most jurors see someone who has been charged with a crime and they assume that “they must have done something wrong or they wouldn’t be here.” This is an uphill battle to fight you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to stand by your side to fight it for you.
You have a right to remain silent and if you choose to remain silent that choice cannot be used against you.
You do not have to testify at your own trial. You do not have to incriminate yourself. You do not have to give evidence against yourself. If you do not testify at your trial the prosecutor cannot mention that fact in their case against you.
You have a right to be free from unreasonable search and seizures.
When pleading guilty to a crime you will often have to give up the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures while you are on probation whether it is formal or informal probation. This means that if you are stopped by law enforcement officers while you are on probation you must advise them that you are on probation and they may search you or any container, vehicle or premises under your control, any time of day or night for no reason whatsoever.
Q: Why should I hire a lawyer if the court is going to appoint one for me?
Many public defenders are excellent lawyers. The problem you face when being represented by a public defender is that they are extremely busy and will not be able to spend the time that most people would want their lawyers to spend with them when they are facing criminal charges. This is a very stressful time when you want someone who is going to hold your hand through the process and be available to answer your questions whenever they arise. You also want to be confident that your lawyer is doing everything they can for you. The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle is committed to doing everything it can for its clients. Unlike a public defender, Ms. Doyle is available to her clients via cell phone, email or text at all times.
Additionally, a lawyer will not be appointed to you until you show up in court for your arraignment. Therefore, you will not have an opportunity to meet your appointed lawyer or discuss your case with them until after charges are filed. By hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer from the moment you discover you are being investigated for a crime or from the moment you are arrested you may be able to avoid having charges filed at all. It is critical to be represented by a lawyer at the earliest stages of a case. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help to reduce bail and can often discuss your case with the prosecution and convince them not to file the case or to file lesser charges.
Q: What is Alternative Sentencing?
There are many alternative sentencing programs available to people facing criminal charges. Some of these alternatives are:
Electronic Monitoring or Supervision
Electronic monitoring or supervision programs allow an individual to wear an electronic monitoring device or ankle bracelet to determine their whereabouts at any given time. It is sometimes used in combination with home detention although not always. This is used in lieu of jail time in some cases. There is a cost involved with electronic monitoring which varies from one provider to another. Electronic monitoring can also be used while a defendant is out on bail in cases where the court might not otherwise have released this individual.
Residential rehabilitation can be an alternative to a jail sentence in cases involving drug or alcohol addiction.
There are a large number of residential rehabilitation programs which allow individuals to live in the program while undergoing rehabilitation for drug or alcohol abuse. There are a wide variety of programs ranging from 30 day programs to year long programs. The amount of time one spends in a program will often be determined by the court. Many programs use the 12 step approach to rehabilitation. Residential programs often involve group meetings, individual counseling and assistance with job placement. Many programs have a mandatory “lock down” period where the resident may not leave the facility. This period can range from 30 to 90 days depending on the program. Programs are either co-ed or only house either male or female residents. Few programs allow children or pregnant women although they do exist. The cost of residential rehabilitation varies greatly. Programs such as Salvation Army are free but have strict requirements for admission. Other programs can run up to thousands of dollars per month.
The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle has been successful in obtaining sentences for her clients which involve residential rehabilitation instead of jail time. If you have a case involving either drug or alcohol addiction, contact The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle to set up a free consultation.
Sober Living Homes are sometimes also called half way houses. Sober Living is where many individuals go to transition from residential rehabilitation back to living their normal lives. It gives someone who is in recovery a chance to slowly re-integrate back into working and dealing with life’s daily issue while providing meetings and support so that they don’t fall back into their old, unhealthy ways. People living in Sober living homes are usually required to have employment so that they can pay for their room at the home which is often shared.
Anger Management classes can be used as a tool to obtain dismissals in some cases and avoid jail in others. It is also required in addition to other forms of punishment in some cases. Any case which involves violence would be an appropriate case for anger management. If you have been charged with or arrested for a crime involving some sort of altercation or fight, the Law Offices of Brianne Doyle would refer you to one of the qualified, probation approved anger management programs that is convenient for you. Once completed, Ms. Doyle would present your proof of completion of the program to the District Attorney and the court in order to convince them that incarceration is not necessary.
If you have been charged with or arrested for any sort of assault or batter case contact the Law Offices of Brianne Doyle for a free consultation.
In cases where an individual is charged with a theft crime, either petty theft, grand theft, receiving stolen property or burglary, it can be extremely beneficial to complete theft counseling. The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle has been successful in having less serious cases dismissed after advising her clients to complete a theft counseling program. Generally, these programs requires participation for ten weeks.
Drug screening and testing
Drug Screening and testing can be used by individuals while out on bail or as an alternative to incarceration. There are several companies which offer these services. Ankle bracelets and sweat patches can be used to determine whether an individual is using drugs or alcohol.
There are many types of counseling services available. They range from general psychological counseling to sex offender treatment. There are many cases where psychological issues result in poor judgment. These issues can often be addressed by counseling. The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle has been extremely successful in keeping clients out of jail in some very serious cases by having her clients commit to attending long term counseling programs.
The Law Offices of Brianne Doyle has many resources available for our clients.