A felony offense is a serious criminal offense for which a person can be sentenced to a year in county jail, a state prison commitment, and/or a fine. Felonies also carry with them serious collateral consequences. One such consequence is a lifetime prohibition from owning or possessing a firearm in the State of California. Your attorney will explain the collateral consequences to you. Typically you will be appointed a public defender at your first court appearance if you do not have the funds to retain a private attorney.
If you have been charged with a felony in Yolo County, your case will proceed in the following manner:
Arraignment is your first appearance in court. You will be advised of your charges and asked if you have a private attorney or the funds to hire your own attorney or request the services of the Public Defender. You also have the right to represent yourself, however, in most circumstances this is not a wise decision.
If you are in custody, the judge may hear a motion to see if you should be let out on your "own recognizance" (OR). This means that you promise to return to court and to not to commit any criminal offenses. Your attorney will make the decision on whether or not it is appropriate for the court to hear this motion.
If you are in custody the judge may also consider releasing you on supervised OR. This means there will be rules that you will have to follow while your case is proceeding and a probation officer you will need to check in with.
If you are not released on OR or on supervised OR, you have the right to have the judge set bail on your pending case. In addition, a hearing regarding releasing you on your OR, or bail, may be set within two court days of your arraignment. For violations of probation, you are not constitutionally entitled to bail and the court may decide you are not entitled to bail on a violation.
Typically you will enter a plea at your arraignment. A plea is when you plead “Not Guilty”, “Nolo Contendere” (No Contest) or “Guilty.” Your attorney can explain the differences to you.
If you enter a plea of not guilty, you have the right to a preliminary examination within ten court days (this does not include weekends and court holidays) and no later than sixty calendar days. If it is necessary to continue your case beyond that deadline in order to prepare your case, you may be asked to “waive time.” Waiving time is common for those clients who are out of custody as it allows you and your attorney more time to be flexible with your schedules in setting future court dates and appointments. If you agree to waive time, you retain the right to a preliminary hearing, but the hearing may not occur within the statutory time frames.
Pre-Preliminary Hearing Conference
After discussing your case with you, your attorney will discuss your case with the District Attorney and the Court to see whether a resolution agreeable to you can be reached. If a resolution cannot be reached your case will proceed to a preliminary hearing.
The purpose of a preliminary examination is for a judge to decide whether there is "sufficient cause," or "probable cause," for the judge to believe that one or more of the crime(s) charged were committed and that you are the person that committed that crime.
At the hearing, the prosecutor calls witnesses and puts on evidence. The District Attorney will call witness at the preliminary examination, but not necessarily all of the witnesses related to your matter. Your attorney will ask questions and might also present evidence, (however, for tactical reasons, presentation of such evidence is rare), but this is a decision your attorney will make in consultation with you.
At the end of the preliminary examination, the judge will decide whether the evidence produced establishes probable or reasonable cause to believe that you committed one or more of the charged offenses. If the judge decides there is no probable or reasonable cause, then you win and the case against you will be dismissed. The judge may also reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, however Not all offenses can be reduced. Your attorney will advise you regarding this. However, if the judge decides there is probable or reasonable cause to believe you committed one or more charged crimes, then the judge will issue an order requiring you to stand trial and set a date for you to be arraigned on the information.
Arraignment on the Information
Your arraignment must be done within fifteen calendar days of your preliminary hearing. At this court date you will be informed of the charges that have been filed and that you will face at your jury trial.
Trial Readiness Conference
The next court appearance is your trial readiness conference. At this time your attorney will discuss your case to see if it can resolve. If not then they will discuss whether or not both parties are ready for trial.
This is a court proceeding to determine whether or not the charges against you can be proven. If you do not waive time, your trial must be set within sixty days of your arraignment on the information. At a jury trial twelve members of the community listen to evidence and decide whether or not the charges have been proven. You are presumed innocent and cannot be found guilty unless the prosecution has proven to the jury that each element of each charge has been proven by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are found not guilty your case ends. If you are found guilty then the court will set a further date for judgment and sentencing.
Judgment and Sentence
If an individual is found guilty at trial or has resolved his or her case short of trial, the court will proceed to judgment and sentencing, in which the judge imposes the consequence for a law violation. In a felony case judgment and sentencing must be held within twenty judicial days after a verdict, a finding, or a guilty plea. This can be extended in certain circumstances.
Typically, during this time the probation department will prepare a report and make a recommendation to the judge as to what the sentence should be. Each offense has its own maximum sentence, your attorney will explain this to you.
Assembly Bill (“AB”) 109, also known as the Criminal Justice Realignment Act, became operative on October 1, 2011. The goal of AB 109 is to reduce the prospective prison population as well as encourage counties to invest in rehabilitative programming for its offenders to reduce recidivism. One of the major components of AB 109 is the requirement that individuals convicted of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sex related offenses serve their prison commitment in county jail, rather than in state prison. In addition, AB109 gives the court the authority to order a “split sentence” in cases where defendants have been convicted of non-serious, non-violent, and non-sex related felony offenses. A “split sentence” is a sentencing scheme that allows defendants to serve a portion of their confinement time on an electronic monitoring program or other alternative situation rather than in a secure detention facility. Your attorney will explain your eligibility for AB109’s sentencing scheme.
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Last Updated: 10/2014