Criminal cases range from relatively minor offenses such as traffic infractions to serious ones like robbery and murder. The state makes the charge against someone accused of committing a crime because a crime is considered an act against society. The prosecuting attorney presents the charge against the accused person (defendant) on behalf of the state (plaintiff), and must prove to the judge or jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- A Felony is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment in a state prison or by death.
- A Misdemeanor is a lesser offense than a felony and generally is punishable by fine or imprisonment in a city or county jail rather than in a state penitentiary.
- An Infraction is resolved by paying a fine.
A criminal case begins when a prosecutor files formal charges, a person is arrested, or a grand jury issues an indictment.
If a defendant, the person accused of a crime, is in custody, he or she has the right to an arraignment within 48 hours of being arrested. At this hearing the judge will officially tell defendants about their constitutional rights and explain the charges against them. Also, bail (property temporarily given to ensure that a person released from custody will return at an appointed time) may be raised or lowered. The defendant will be asked to plead to the charges against them: guilty, not guilty, or, in some cases, nolo contendere (the person does not contest the charges, which legally is the same as a guilty plea).
For Misdemeanor at the Metropolitan Building, a Probation Officer is available in person Tue-Thur from 8am-10am and available by phone Mon-Fri. Please allow up to 24 business hours for phone calls to be returned.
Defendants who plead guilty to a misdemeanor may be sentenced during the arraignment, unless the judge wishes to postpone sentencing in order to study a probation report. During the arraignment, if a defendant pleads not guilty to a misdemeanor, the judge will set the date for a trial. The trial will be held within 30 days if the defendant is in custody or within 45 days if the defendant is not in custody-unless the defendant waives the right to a speedy trial.
If a defendant pleads guilty to a felony at the arraignment, he or she must be represented by an attorney (unless the defendant, in a noncapital case, waives the right to one). After a guilty plea, the judge has the option to keep the case in that court for sentencing or probation or to transfer the case to a superior court. If a defendant pleads not guilty to a felony, a preliminary hearing is held. At this hearing the district attorney must show evidence that the defendant committed a felony and should be brought to trial. If the judge decides there is enough evidence, the defendant will be arraigned a second time in superior court, where the defendant again will be formally charged, rights will be explained, and a plea will be made.
State and local laws define crimes and specify punishment. The maximum sentence for an infraction is a fine; for a misdemeanor it is up to one year in a county jail; and for a felony it is time in a state prison or, for some murders, death. Some counties offer "diversion" programs that allow a judge to order a defendant to get medical treatment or counseling or to do community service work. The diversion program may take the place of a fine or jail sentence in certain types of misdemeanor and felony cases.
Proposition 47, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act went into effect on November 5, 2014. This Act reduces most drug possession offenses and thefts of property valued under $950.00 from felonies to misdemeanors. Persons convicted of theses offenses as a felony may petition/apply to the Court for resentencing as a misdemeanor. Please see the attached instructions and forms.
- DUI - Driving Under the Influence
- Hit and Run
- Reckless driving
- Suspended license violations
Minor traffic violations are handled by the Traffic Division which includes but not limited to:
- Minor traffic offenses
- Minor dog offenses
- Minor fish and game license offenses
If you do not appear in court when required, the court can order any or all of the following actions:
- Order bail posted to insure your appearance forfeited.
- Order a warrant for your arrest.
- Order the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend your driver's license.
- Add a new violation (Failure to Appear - FTA) to your case. The punishment for this violation can be a jail term of up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 fine. Pursuant to section 1214.1 of the Penal Code, in addition to any other penalty, the court may impose an additional $100 Civil assessment against any defendant who fails to appear in court for any proceeding on a minor offense.
Your warrant remains active until:
- a police agency arrests you
- you appear in court, or
- you post bail
If you post bail for a future court date and fail to appear the court may order your bail forfeited and issue a new warrant for your arrest.
Links below open a new window and link to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Web site:
- General Information
- Actions Resulting in Loss of License
- DUI Arrest: DMV Administrative Hearings vs. Criminal Court Trials
- Alcohol Impairment Charts
- DMV FAQ
Blood Alcohol Results
Blood alcohol results are usually included in the police report. However, if blood alcohol results were not available at the time of filing the case with the court, the defendant will be advised of his/her test results at his/her arraignment.