Published on May 18th, 2014 | by Daniel R. Perlman0
The Initial Stage of the Court Process
An arraignment is usually the first court hearing in a California criminal case where those accused will find out what criminal charges have been filed against them, their Constitutional rights, as well as bail status. Charged individuals are also given the first opportunity to enter a plea – no contest, not guilty, or guilty. A defendant may request a public defender or seek a criminal defense attorney at their arraignment proceeding to prepare for their arraignment and allow the time to make the decision whether a plea of “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “no contest” will be entered. If a plea of guilty or no contest is entered, the defendant will be sentenced by the judge and the court proceedings will come to an abrupt end.
If a plea of “not guilty” is entered, the judge will set a future date for a pretrial hearing or, in a felony case, the preliminary hearing. This usually occurs within 90 days from the date of the arraignment. This will allow the defendant and their attorney time to evaluate all of the evidence pertaining to the case as well as negotiate possible plea bargains with the district attorney.
When a defendant fails to enter a plea, the judge will enter a “not guilty” plea on their behalf. A failure to appear at an arraignment can result in an arrest warrant being issued.
Also decided at the arraignment will be the question of bail. If the judge decides that the case warrants it, he or she may release a defendant on their own recognizance – commonly referred to as an O.R. release. If an O.R. release is granted, no bail is required and the defendant promises to will attend their court appearances. A judge may deny the right to post bail under certain circumstances, and in connection with certain crimes. However, most of the time, bail is required.
Determining bail and release
The amount of bail varies depending on the crime involved and varies with the nature of the offense and with the county. All California counties have their own bail schedules that set forth the amount for bail for each type of crime.
The Los Angeles county felony bail schedule sets an amount upon which a person who is arrested without a warrant may be released from custody prior to appearance in court. For all offenses chargeable as straight misdemeanors under state statutes or municipal or agency ordinances, there is also a uniform bail schedule for many offenses. For those offenses for which there is no uniform bail set in the uniform bail schedule, including unlisted subdivisions, the bail is $500, with some exceptions.
In setting the bail amount, the judge has the final word. California criminal law allows the judge considerable discretion, giving him or her the ability to deviate from the bail schedule, depending on the defendant’s criminal history, the flight risk presented, and the specifics of a particular case.
Daniel R. Perlman
The Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman