Criminal Justice Process: Misdemeanor Charges
Misdemeanors are offenses generally punishable jail, county jail, and or fines. On the other hand, felonies are generally punishable by imprisonment in the State prison and/or fines, or in serious murder charges, if special circumstances apply, punishment may include the death penalty. In Los Angeles misdemeanor cases, the Court conducts arraignments where the defendant/accused individual is informed of the specific charges against him/her and are advised of their rights. The Court holds preliminary hearings on felony charges to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require a defendant to stand trial.
What Occurs in a Misdemeanor Case?
California misdemeanor charges are primarily offenses and hold a maximum punishment of a $1,000 fines and a county jail term of 1 year or less. However, sometimes depending on your misdemeanor charges, your punishment, if foun d guilty, can carry a higher maximum fine.
An arrest is made – police take the defendant to jail (or released on signed citation in the field). If the defendant is arrested and given a date to appear in court.
Los Angeles Misdemeanor Arraignment & Plea – Defendant brought to Court
- Defendant is formally informed of the charges against him
- Defendant is further informed of his or her constitutional rights
- An private Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can retained by the defendant or defendant wishes to have an attorney present, but cannot afford one, the Court may appoint a public defender.
- Bail is also set at the arraignment hearing. Defendant may be released on his or her “own recognizance”, or will remain in custody if her or she is unable to post bail; OR
- Defendant enters a plea – guilty, not guilty, or no contest
Pleading Not Guilty in Misdemeanor Case
During the arraignment hearing the defendant will make his or her plea. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case is set for a future hearing.
Pleading Guilty or No Contest in Misdemeanor Case
Pleading “Guilty” to Misdemeanor Charges – The defendant admits that he/she did commit the crime
Pleading “No Contest” to Charges -If the defendant pleads not contest the charge. When the defendant pleads no contest it fundamentally has the same effect as a pleading guilty, except that the conviction cannot be used against the you in a civil suit. If the defendant pleads Guilty or No Contest, the criminal case is resolved at the time of arraignment and punishment will be decided by any fines, fees and/or court-ordered programs, such as alcoholic or drug programs, imposed by the judge.
For instance, if you were accused and charges with a misdemeanor DUI charge in Los Angeles, the judge may order you to take a court-ordered alcoholic program.
Pre-Trial Proceedings After a Not Guilty Plea in Misdemeanor Case
- During pre-trial proceedings, the prosecution and criminal defense lawyer will exchange “Discovery”. Discovery includes, police reports, blood test results, photographers, drug evidence, and any other document or evidence related to your case.
- Both the prosecution and your criminal defense attorney will file various motions, such as to set aside the complaint, dismiss the case, or to suppress evidence.
- A hearing will be held to attempt to settle the case without going to trial.
- If the case is unable to come to a resolution, the case proceeds to trial.
What Occurs at a California Criminal Trial?
- The Jury is selected, during the “voir dire” process
- Prosecution witnesses may testify
- Defendant’s witnesses may testify
- Defendant may testify
- Jury deliberated and decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty for the accused charges
- If the jury comes back with a “not guilty” verdict, the defendant is released
- If the jury comes back with a “guilty” verdict, the defendant may be sentenced to jail, be placed on probation, fines imposed, and possible other conditions
- The defendant has the right to appeal the verdict and can file an appeal with Appellate Department of the Superior Court