A criminal law case is brought by either the State or Federal Government accusing a citizen of a crime. If convicted, jail or prison can result. Criminal law cases are either felonies or misdemeanors. A misdemeanor is a crime that carries up to one year in jail. A felony, by definition, carries a maximum sentence of more than one year and can, depending on the charge carry up to a life sentence or even the death penalty. Infractions, such as speeding, an illegal turn, or various municipal code violations, carry fines only and are not "crimes."
A criminal law case is different than a civil case. In a civil case resulting from a failed business relationship, an auto accident, breach of contract or the like, the parties are arguing over money only. The law and procedure on a criminal law case is unique to criminal law and requires that you find an attorney with specialized knowledge in criminal law.
All criminal law cases, whether misdemeanor or felony, require that the citizen accused have the right to a speedy and public jury trial. Although most cases don’t result in a trial, the right to a trial is the best protection against a wrongful accusation. Also, in all criminal law cases, an accused has the right to remain silent at all times and has the right to have an attorney at all stages of the case from arrest through trial.
Criminal law cases usually begin with an arrest of a citizen by the police. Although the police can make an arrest based only upon "probable cause" that a citizen committed a crime, it is the prosecuting agency, either a District Attorney or City Attorney who reviews the police report and decides whether or not they can prove the case. However, only occasionally does the government decide not to prosecute after an arrest. Only this government lawyer, called a "prosecutor" can bring criminal charges.
In California, a citizen has the right to be brought to Court within 48 hours of his arrest excluding weekends and holidays, unless he posts bail within the 48 hours. When arrested or accused of a crime, it is critical that a criminal law specialist be contacted immediately.
The first proceeding in a criminal law case is called an arraignment. At the arraignment, the accused citizen is advised of the charges against him, provided a copy of the police reports, and enters a plea of not guilty. If the case is a felony, the matter is set for a "preliminary hearing" before a judge, within ten court days of the arraignment. At the preliminary hearing a judge listens to witnesses presented by the government. The prosecutor attempts to establish that there is some factual basis to the charges. If the judge finds "probable cause" that the accused committed a felony, the matter is sent to a trial court. The judge can also dismiss the case if the judge finds no probable cause.
If the judge finds probable cause, the accused is ordered to stand trial and is sent to a trial court where a second arraignment occurs. An accused has a right to a trial within sixty days of the arraignment in the trial court. Within that sixty days there are one or more pre-trial hearings to settle legal issues and work out a plea bargain if possible.
In a misdemeanor case no preliminary hearing is held and after the first arraignment, the case is set for a pre-trial and trial. If the accused is in custody at the time of his arraignment on the misdemeanor case, he is entitled to a trial within 30 days. If he is out of custody he is entitled to a trial within 45 days.
Whenever you are arrested or otherwise accused of a crime, it is always best to find an experienced criminal law attorney to assist you as soon as possible. If you need a criminal attorney in Long Beach, it is best to find a lawyer with extensive experience in Long Beach. Remember, the right to have an attorney begins at the moment you are questioned by law enforcement. Always demand a lawyer before speaking to the police, under any circumstances.
For a further explanation on any issue related to criminal law, contact Long Beach Criminal Law Specialist Matthew G. Kaestner. He will personally take your call at (562) 437-0200.
Matt Kaestner Attorney. This website is designed for informational use only and the information presented on this website should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of an attorney/client relationship.
For more information about the Law Office of Matthew Kaestner visit his site at www.lbcrimlaw.com.