Bakersfield's Criminal Process
Facing felony charges in California is never easy. If convicted, you could face extensive jail time, hefty fines, and long-term damage to your reputation. It is worth remembering that despite these potential consequences a conviction is never guaranteed.
To beat the charges you are facing, you will need a plan. This should start with discussing your case with a seasoned criminal defense attorney. Your attorney could advise you on the criminal process, guiding you through each stage of your case.
The Hennessy Law Group is proud to serve the accused during this difficult time. We understand the challenges that come with a prosecution and are prepared to assist you every step of the way. To learn more about the criminal process and how it impacts your case, schedule a free consultation with the Hennessy Law Group today.
The Criminal Process in California
Regardless of where in California an arrest takes place, the court process follows a similar pattern. Below, we review the process from investigation to appeal.
Investigation and Arrest
Depending on the nature of the offense, the investigation could last for months before an arrest is made. In other cases, an arrest can follow within an hour or minutes of the alleged crime occurring.
Felony offenses that occur in view of a police officer – like Felony DWI, for instance – typically lead to an arrest immediately. Other crimes, including murder or bank robbery, can take years for prosecutors to feel their case is strong enough to prosecute. Eventually, for a case to move forward the police must make an arrest.
Arraignment and Bail
The first formal court hearing after an arrest is made is known as arraignment. The arraignment is a defendant's opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Pleading guilty at arraignment, especially without having first spoken with an attorney, can be especially risky. A defendant that pleads guilty will allow the case to go forward and will provide them with a chance to seek out legal counsel.
The arraignment hearing also provides a defendant with a chance to get out of jail pending trial. In California, this is done through a system of bail bonds. A bail bond requires the defendant to deposit money with the court in exchange for their freedom pending trial. If the defendant misses a court date or fails to uphold some other condition, the court can order them to remain in jail until their trial date.
While most counties have a bail schedule to determine what bail might be in these cases, the judge has leeway to lower or raise that amount. An attorney could use their experience with local courts to advise their client on what to expect for bail.
One a not guilty plea is entered, the case moves into the “pre-trial” phase. During this part of the case, both sides have the opportunity to file motions and conduct discovery. Discovery is the process where the parties exchange the evidence they intend to use at trial.
The motions filed during the pre-trial process can seek a wide range of outcomes. They could request the judge to recuse themselves, seek to move the case to another venue, or ask that certain evidence be excluded at trial. In fact, many of the major evidentiary issues are dealt with through these motions long before the trial date is scheduled to start.
During this part of the case, plea negotiations are common. These negotiations could continue throughout the process, with some cases only resolving themselves on the eve of trial.
If the defendant does not agree to a plea bargain, most felony cases are decided by a jury trial. The jury serves as the finder of fact in the case. They will observe the evidence, listen to the judge for guidance on the law, and determine if a person is guilty or innocent. For major cases, a jury trial could take weeks. The jury deliberations themselves could take days. In the end, if the defendant prevails they will walk away from the courthouse free and clear. If the state prevails, a defendant still has some options left.
Post-Trial Motions and Appeals
If a plaintiff is convicted, there are still options left for fighting back. A plaintiff could file a motion asking the trial judge for a new trial if they believe the conviction was wrongful. If the judge does not grant a new trial, a defendant could seek an appeal. An appeal could result in a conviction being overturned, but only if the plaintiff can show that the judge made a critical error during the trial.
Superior Courts in Kern County
With approximately 900,000 residents, Kern County, California is inundated with civil and criminal cases. It should come as no surprise then that there are multiple Superior Courts spread throughout the county.
Known as the “Metro Division,” the Justice Building in Bakersfield is home to two different criminal courts.
Delano holds a combined felony and misdemeanor division. Court is held each weekday at varying times.
Lamont, California is also home to a Superior Court. Like Delano, the Lamont Superior Courthouse holds both felony and misdemeanor divisions.
Mojave, California plays host to its own Superior Court. The Mojave Superior Court hears both felony and misdemeanor cases.
The Superior Court in Shafter also hears both felony and misdemeanor cases.
How a Kern County Defense Attorney Can Help
No matter where in Kern County you are facing criminal charges, the Hennessy Law Group can help. We have extensive experience facing down prosecutors and earning acquittals in felony cases. To learn more about how we can help, schedule a free consultation right away.
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