Being arrested and thrust into California’s criminal court process can be one of the most frightening experiences of your life. Understanding how it works may help ease some of those fears.
Your first formal court appearance is the arraignment, which is where you enter a guilty, no contest, or not guilty plea. If you plead guilty or no contest, you proceed to sentencing, where the judge hands down your sentence. If you plead not guilty, you move into the pre-trial process.
The pre-trial process is where most California criminal cases resolve. Your attorney will argue motions, engage in plea-bargaining, and conduct an independent investigation of the charges, all in an effort to help you favorably settle your case. If the case settles, you move onto sentencing. If not, to the trial phase.
Jury trials can last anywhere from days to months, depending on (1) the charges filed against you, and (2) how many charges have been filed against you. During the jury trial, both sides present evidence in an effort to prove that you are either guilty or innocent of the charge(s). If you are found not guilty, the case is over, and any bail you posted will be exonerated and returned. If you are found guilty, you proceed to sentencing.
The oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. Hopefully, should you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of being arrested, this overview of the California criminal court process will help ease some of your anxiety.