San Jose Felony Lawyer Maureen Baldwin
Felony Court Procedures
For most felonies, the case does not even “get started” until you have an attorney, except in an unusual case where a defendant may be taken by surprise.*
The procedure for felony court appearances is:
- First the arraignment to advise of the charges and the need for an attorney.
- The second appearance a few weeks later for the attorney to identify him/herself as responsible for the case. At the second appearance, the attorney should receive a copy of the case file. Before that date, the reports can only be viewed in the clerk’s office or on the Judge’s bench.
- After receiving the reports, the attorney must first decide if there are additional missing reports or taped interview that are missing, obtain them from the DA or the police, and review them with the client. At this point, in felony matters and many misdemeanors, investigation or consultation with expert witnesses is begun so that the attorney can be prepared to either get the charges reduced or dropped in consultation with the prosecutor, or to prepare for the preliminary hearing.
- The preliminary hearing is a mini-trial where the prosecution puts on just a few witnesses and the defense has the chance to cross-examine.
- After the hearing, the judge decides if there is any evidence to take the case to trial. If the judge so decides, a new arraignment date is set.
- At that time, the defense attorney may set legal motions to suppress evidence or to call defects in evidence or pleading to the next court’s attention. These motions may take months or weeks to prepare, depending on the volume of material and legal issue involved.
- There may be a felony pretrial conference if it appears the case would benefit from a discussion or attempt to settle.
- After that the matter is on the trial calendar. Again, there are many more trials set than courtrooms available, so the case may be on calendar for several weeks. Depending on how complicated the matter and what is at stake in the punishment, a felony can be concluded in a few months if it is straightforward, or sometimes as much as a year or more if investigation and preparation is difficult and the case proceeds all the way to trial.
Felony trials usually take a minimum of 5 days all the way up to several months in front of a jury before the matter is concluded. Your success depends on how soon you hire a lawyer, their experience, and how well you prepare for your case. Contact Criminal Defense Attorney Maureen Baldwin today for more information on felony defense.
*This is when after bailing out of jail bail is raised a second time at the arraignment. This usually happens only if the case is “undercharged” by the original DA on a very serious matter, and then the complaint is amended by a new prosecutor assessing the file after the original court date.
This can also happen when the judge presiding on the arraignment calendar disagrees with the magistrate who reviewed the case while the defendant was in jail and set the original bail. In any serious felony, especially where three strikes, sexual offenses, or multiple crimes are alleged, it is ESSENTIAL to bring an attorney in ASAP to be prepared for these possibilities and to argue against the bail changes proposed in court.