Temecula and Murrieta Criminal Defense Attorney | Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Criminal Court
At the Law Office of Nicolai Cocis & Associates, we represent individuals charged with Criminal Offenses, including DUI and Juvenile Matters in the cities of Temecula, Murrieta, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Wildomar, Perris, Banning, Corona and Riverside, California.
If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a crime, contact our office right away to discuss how we can use our experience and uncompromising defense strategies to protect your future.
1. What Are The Differences Between Felonies And Misdemeanors?
The criminal justice system typically classifies a crime as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The most important difference between the two is the maximum sentence that can be imposed. Ordinarily, a felony is punishable by incarceration in prison for a year or more, and a misdemeanor is punishable by a jail sentence of less than a year. The typical maximum fine for a felony is $10,000 and $1000 for a misdemeanor. For non-citizens, a felony conviction may adversely impact one's immigration status and can result in deportation. Because a felony carries a substantial possible sentence, there are some protections that only apply to prosecutions for felonies. For example, a preliminary hearing is required only for felonies.
Being convicted of either a felony or a misdemeanor offense may have lasting consequences that can affect you in your everyday life. You may be denied employment opportunities and may be prevented from possessing firearms and ammunition.
2. What Takes Place At My Initial Court Appearance?
The initial court appearance is called the Arraignment. Although this initial appearance typically lasts only a few minutes, it is a critical stage of your case. At this appearance, you're formally notified of the charges and advised of basic constitutional rights, and various routine procedural matters are resolved. A copy of the police report is given to your attorney. The issue of bail is addressed. The judge may set, reduce or increase the bail amount, depending on a number of different factors such as the nature of the current offense, your prior convictions and whether or not the judge believes you pose a risk to society. Because no evidence is presented at the Arraignment, neither the arresting officer nor witnesses are normally present.
In almost all misdemeanor cases, your attorney can go to court for you. If you're charged with a felony, you must appear in court with your attorney every time a court hearing is scheduled.
3. What Is A Preliminary Hearing?
A preliminary hearing is required only for felony offenses. It is presided over by a judge (without a jury) and conducted by your attorney and the prosecutor. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether there is a minimal reason to believe that (1) a crime was committed and (2) you committed it. It is easy for the prosecutor to "win" a preliminary hearing because the prosecutor does not have to convince the judge beyond a reasonable doubt. That standard applies at trial. Further, in California, the law permits the prosecutor to present "hearsay" evidence from a police officer.
Nonetheless, a preliminary hearing is a critical stage of your case. This hearing enables the defense to learn about the strengths and weaknesses in the prosecution's case, without disclosing much about the defense's strategy and proof.
4. What is Bail?
After an individual has been arrested, unless he is released on his Own Recognizance (O.R.), he will need to post bail in order to get out of custody. Bail is a form of insurance which secures that an individual appears for trial.
For example, if an individual has been arrested for a felony domestic violence offense, the typical bail amount for such an offense is $50,000. If the individual cannot post that amount in cash, a bail bondsperson is usually available to post the bail amount, for a fee. The fee is approximately 10 percent of the total amount of bail. The bondsperson promises to pay the court the total amount of bail if the individual does not appear for trial. If the individual appears for trial, he or she does not get back the fee.
The link below will take you to the Bail Schedule for Riverside County Superior Court