SAN FRANCISCO CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, THE PROCEDURES OF A SAN FRANCISCO FELONY CASE:

A felony is the most serious charge in our criminal system.  They range in gravity, but the general rule is that we always want to avoid a conviction to any and all felony charges.  

THE PROCEDURE OF A FELONY

THE ARREST:

Many Defendants are arrested while the alleged wrong doing is taking place, while many others are arrested later by means of a warrant.  If you have a warrant it is important to arrange a turn in so that you can maximize your chances for getting released on your promised to appear or have the Judge set a lower bail.  The most important thing to remember during an arrest is to always remain silent.  Do not answer any questions or volunteer any information. 

THE ARRAIGNMENT:

After arrest, the person is to be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours (this can vary from county to county and if it's a weekend or a weekday).  At the arraignment, the court informs the person of the charges against him/her and a plea is entered (guilty, not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity and jeopardy are some of the options).  Time is waived, or not waived (you have a right to have your Preliminary Hearing (PX) begin within 10 court days and be completed within 60 calendar days), for the holding of your preliminary hearing.  It is also at this time that a release on your own recognizance can be obtained, and/or the reduction of bail.

THE PRE-HEARING MEETING:

Most, but not all, Courts will hold a pre-hearing conference between the DA, Judge and Defense Attorney at some point before the PX.  Depending on the complexity of the case and availability of witnesses, there may be several of these hearings held before the PX.  The purpose of this hearing is to see if there is possible resolution to the matter that works for both parties.  The resolution truly depends on the facts of the case and the terms of the offer.  The important part is that the client is always in control of resolving or not resolving his/her case.

THE PRELIMINARY HEARING:

The PX is a very important hearing in the process of a felony charge.  It is a chance for everyone to see the "face of the case".  At the hearing the prosecutor must present evidence that is sufficient enough to establish that the accused may have committed a crime.  It is not a hearing to determine guilt, it is a hearing where innocence can be shown.  Most of the time the prosecutors are able to meet their burden because the threshold is so low.

SUPERIOR COURT ARRAIGNMENT

If one is held to answer on the alleged allegations, then the case is sent to the Superior Court for arraignment on the Information.  The Information serves as the official criminal complaint.  Here, we again enter pleas of not guilty and begin the process in Superior Court.  All Courts are now consolidated so when we refer to Superior Court, it is all the same.

PRE-TRIAL MOTIONS:

Pre-trial motions are brought by both the prosecution and the defense in order to resolve final issues and establish what evidence and testimony will be admissible at trial.  Motions are an excellent way to minimize damage or to get the matter dismissed before trial.  We run motions in our cases anytime it is beneficial to our client.

TRIAL:

At trial, the judge or the jury will either find the defendant guilty or not guilty.  The prosecution bears the burden of proof in a criminal trial.  Thus, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed the crimes he/she is charged with.  The defendant has a constitutional right to a jury trial in most criminal matters.  A jury or judge makes the final determination of guilt or innocence after listening to opening and closing statements, examination and cross-examination of witnesses and jury instructions.  If the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict, the judge may declare a mistrial, and the case will either be dismissed or a new jury will be chosen.  If a judge or jury finds the defendant guilty, the court will sentence the defendant.

SENTENCING:

During the sentencing phase of a criminal case the court determines the appropriate punishment for the convicted defendant.  In determining a suitable sentence the court will consider a number of factors; including the nature and severity of the crime, the defendant's criminal history, the defendant's personal circumstances and the degree of remorse felt by the defendant. 

APPEALS:

An individual convicted of a crime may ask that his or her case be reviewed by a higher court.  If that court finds an error in the case or the sentence imposed, the court may reverse the conviction or find that the case should be re-tried.  Please see our appeals section on this website for further detailed information on appeals.