If you have been charged with a felony in Placer County, you can expect your case to proceed in the following manner:While You Are In Custody
If you have been taken into custody after your arrest, the police may want to speak with you. It is important to remember that:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Anything you say can and will be used against you in court
- You have the right to talk to an attorney
- You have the right to have an attorney present before and during questioning
- If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you
DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE, FAMILY, FRIENDS, OR OTHER INMATES ABOUT YOUR CASE. All of your phone calls and jail visits, except ones you have with your attorney, are recorded and can be used against you in court. The only person you should be speaking with about your case is your attorney.At the Initial Arraignment
The arraignment is your very first court appearance for your case. At this point, you will be advised of the charges against you. You will also be asked if you can afford to hire a private attorney. If you cannot, the court will appoint a Public Defender.
You will enter a plea of:
- Guilty: admitting you committed the crime and you will be convicted
- Not Guilty: you say you did not commit the crime and the case will proceed
- No Contest: you do not disagree with the charge and you will be convicted. In the criminal proceeding, this is the same as pleading guilty. However, with this plea the conviction cannot be used against you in a civil lawsuit.
You may remain in custody, post bail to be released from custody, or the judge will release you on your own recognizance (O.R.). If you are released from custody, it is very important that you come to court on the days as ordered. Failure to appear will not only lengthen your case proceedings, but it will also result in a bench warrant for your arrest.
If you plead not guilty, you have the right toa preliminary hearing within 10 court days and within 60 calendar days of your arraignment. You may be advised to waive this right so your attorney can collect evidence and prepare the best defense possible.Plea Bargaining
After your arraignment and once you have discussed your case with your attorney, your attorney will speak with the District Attorney about resolving your case without going to trial. The District Attorney may offer you a lesser charge in exchange for you pleading guilty.
If you accept, you will enter a change of plea and will be convicted and sentenced. If you reject the deal, the case will proceed to trial. Most cases are settled in this way before a trial begins. Your attorney will give you advice on these matters, but ultimately the decision to accept or reject the deal is yours alone.At the Preliminary Hearing
During a preliminary hearing, the District Attorney will present evidence and call witnesses who will then be questioned by your attorney. At the end of this hearing, the judge will decide if the evidence against you gives reasonable cause to believe that you committed the charge against you. No jury will be present at this court date. If the judge does not believe there is reasonable cause, then the case is dismissed and you are free to go. If the judge does believe there is reasonable cause, you will be ordered to stand trial and a date will be set for the arraignment on the information.At the Arraignment on Information
At this court date, you will be informed of the charges that you will face at trial. Absent a time waiver, this court appearance must occur within fifteen days after your preliminary hearing.At the Jury Trial
At this time, a jury of twelve members of the community will be chosen. The jury will listen to all evidence presented, witness testimony, and attorney arguments to decide if you are guilty or not guilty of the crime you are charged with. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are found not guilty, your case is over and you are free to go. If you are found guilty, a date will be set for sentencing. If you do not agree with the guilty verdict, you can appeal to the Third District Court of Appeals.At Sentencing
If you are convicted of a felony at any point during the criminal proceedings, a judge will sentence you. The sentence you are given will depend on a variety of factors such as the severity of the crime and your personal history.