The main purpose of this article is to provide some information regarding the criminal justice system in Orange County. The justice system is very lengthy and consisting of many legal terminologies and. This article gives some basic information and not the alternate source of complete information. You can get some basic information from this article and get support from Orange County Criminal lawyers. Some of the information can also be found on the websites of the Superior Court of California.
When someone commits a crime, the government files a case in the court to arrest and punish him. The person who commits the crime is called a defendant can face jail or prison as punishment if he/she is found guilty of the crime. The criminal cases are divided into three types.
- Infractions and violation
Infractions are minor violations like many traffic violations. Punishments usually include less serious sanctions, fines, and a jail sentence for 15 days. Infractions are handled by the police department. Infractions and violations are considered ‘petty offenses”. These are not considered a crime.
These are also small crimes with punishment of jail for 6-12 months or a fine of $1000. Following are some crimes in a misdemeanor.
- Driving drunk
- Unlicensed driving or driving with a suspended license
- Petty theft
Serious kind of crimes comes under Felonry. The defendant could be sentenced to jail or state prison a year or more than one year if found guilty. The defendant can get the death penalty for a serious crime. Following are some examples.
- Illegal drug sale and possession
The first step in the criminal process is arrest. Defendant involved in alcoholic driving, felony, or misdemeanor can be fingerprinted. Police make the report of committed crimes and arrests. If the defendant is involved in a less serious crime, the police officer can issue an appearance ticket and release the defendant from his custody. The defendant with an appearance tick has to appear in court late. The defendant remains in police custody if he does not receive an appearance ticket.
Functions of District Attorney
District Attorney Office in Orange County represents the People of State of New York. Police send the report to this office. In Orange County, District Attorney investigates and prosecutes all offenses. The District Attorney defers prosecution authority to police officers for the majority of traffic violations and municipal attorneys for the violation of the municipal ordinance.
Residents of the County elect district attorney to represent the state in proceedings against accused persons. District Attorney is assisted by his many assistants called Assistant District attorneys. In Orange County, 2 Assistant District Attorneys are on call 24/7 throughout the year. A district attorney investigator is also available on call to help assistant district attorneys. These on-call assistant district attorneys work when District Attorney Office is closed. Functions of these on-call District Attorneys are given below.
- They respond to the scenes of major crime
- Answer queries raised by the Police department
- Recommendations about the amount of bail in a particular case
Arraignment is the first appearance of the defendant in court. The defendant is informed about charges against him at his first appearance in court. Bail determination is also made at arraignment. Some of the rights of the defendant were also informed to him. These rights are given below for example.
- His rights to attorney and adjournment to get an attorney
- His right to remain silent
- His right to a trial
- His right to a preliminary hearing in felony cases
Defendants are usually without an attorney at arraignment. He also gets information about his next appearance in the court in arraignment. Defendants attend the second appearance in the court usually with an attorney.
Consider the following points to understand the bail set.
- The bail is set by the judge to secure the defendant’s appearance
- The bail is in terms of money either cash or bond. This money is posted by the defendant. Assistant District Attorneys request that bail is set and also justify the bail conditions requested.
- Court set by taking into consideration many factors. These factors can be:
- Seriousness of charges
- Defendant previous criminal record
- Defendant’s ties to the community
- Defendant’s prior history to return to court
- The defendant is held in Orange County Jail till next appearance in court if he does not post bail.
- The defendant is released if he posts amount of bail
- Sometimes court feels that bail is unnecessary. In this situation, the court can release the defendant on his recognizance.
- The court can also order to hold the defendant in custody without sending him to jail. This happens when the chances of the defendant’s return to court are poor.
- In petty offenses and misdemeanor cases, the court is required to set bail or release the defendant on release on a recognizance basis.
- The local criminal courts don’t have the authority to set bail in some felony cases. In this situation, the defendant is held in custody. His bail status is reviewed by the county or supreme court.
Step after the Arraignment
All the misdemeanor and violation cases are solved by the local criminal courts. Jurisdictions of local courts are given below.
- Assignment of the counsel
- Pretrial motion
- Trial and sentencing
- Accept guilty pleas after arraignment
Note the following happenings in felony cases.
- The defendant is either sent to jail instead of bail or released on a recognizance basis by the local courts
- If the defendant is sent to jail then he is indicted by the grand jury. If not indicted by a grand jury within several days, a preliminary hearing is started in the local court.
- The judge evaluates the evidence and determines whether this evidence is enough for the committed felony at the preliminary hearing.
- If the court finds enough evidence to hold the defendant for grand jury action then the defendant will remain in custody, pending action by the grand jury.
- The court can reduce the case to a misdemeanor or dismiss if there are not enough shreds of evidence for grand jury action. This does not mean that case is over because the case can still be presented to Grand Jury.
- The district attorney can request the local criminal court to reduce the felony charges to non-felony charges if he decides not to prosecute the case as a felony. In this situation case is not presented to the grand jury and the case will be prosecuted in local courts.
- If the Grand Jury indicts the case the further proceedings are held in County Court.
Grand Jury Proceedings
Grand jury proceedings are secret and only specific personal are allowed to be present there. These can be Grand Jurors, a stenographer, Assistant District Attorney, etc. The indictment is filed by the grand jury with the County Court. The arraignment process, bail proceedings, and pretrial proceedings were conducted in County Court in the same way as described before. Additional steps at the County Court are given below.
- The persecutor gives copies of the indictment and other legal documents to the defendant at County Court.
- The defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty to the indictment
- Bail may be reviewed and different conditions set
Defendant does have to prove or disprove anything during trial. The prosecutor has to present strong evidence to prove that defendant is guilty of charged offense/offenses. The evidence presented in the trial can be in the following forms.
- Testimony of pieces of evidence
- Physical evidence (Gun, photograph, or Video)
- Scientific pieces of evidence
Defendant has the right of Jury trial or trial decided by the judge. The judge always decides the guilt or non-guilt of the defendant in case of infractions.
Sentencing depends upon the circumstances of the specific case. It can be right after the plea or trial. It can take several weeks after the plea or trial. A person can be sentenced to the following.
- A combination of above
Appeal to Appellant court
The defendant can appeal conviction, sentence, or both to appellant court. The defendant loses his appeal if the appellant court affirms the appeal. There is also the possibility that the appellant court reverses the judgment of conviction. In this condition, the defendant can withdraw his plea. He can also receive a new trial. His/her verdict may stand but the defendant can be resentenced.
The district attorney may appeal an illegal sentence. A dismissal by the judge before the start of the trial can also be appealed by the District attorney. The district attorney can also appeal a ruling by the judge due to which he is unable to prosecute a case.
It is very difficult to understand and cope with the complicated process of criminal cases. If you found yourself involved in any criminal case or if you want to help someone involved in criminal activity then contact your lawyer or any Orange County Criminal Lawyer firm to get support for your case. If you try to solve your case right from start then the case can become complicated. So, don’t waste your time and money.