What can you do before your Orange County court date?
If you were arrested, but then released on bail or on your own recognizance (an “O.R.” release) and have a court date coming up, is there anything that can be done, or do you have to wait for your court date?
Your arrest doesn’t signal the end of an investigation against you – it’s only the beginning of the legal process. Unless the police conclude their entire investigation against you, they can still be building a case, even after your arrest and before your first court appearance.
What happens to your report after your arrest?
The police write up their reports and put together a packet to submit to the prosecution. In all felonies in Orange County, they go to the District Attorney’s office. For misdemeanor cases, they will go to the DA’s office as well unless there is a City Attorney that handles the misdemeanor cases in their jurisdiction (for example, the Anaheim City Attorney’s office handles misdemeanors committed in the city of Anaheim). They will include the reports and your criminal history (“rap sheet”) for the prosecutor to review.
Once the DA gets your case, it gets assigned to an attorney to review for filing. That attorney will make one of three choices – 1) decide there’s enough to file as the case stands and they’ll file charges. 2) they can decide there’s not enough evidence to support the filing of charges and reject the case entirely or 3) they can send it back to the police for clarification and further investigation, leaving it up to them to re-submit it.
So do you just sit back and wait?
Usually, that’s not a good idea. The vast majority of cases submitted to the DA end up getting filed. If you sit back and wait until your court date, you’ve lost valuable time building your side of the case.
But don’t they have the burden of proof?
Yes, the prosecution has the burden of proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start helping yourself. First and foremost, don’t hurt yourself by helping the prosecution. Don’t discuss your situation with anyone except a criminal defense attorney in a confidential setting. Assume that anything you say to anyone will end up being used against you. That means no Myspace posts, no Facebook comments, no Twitter, no text messages, emails, voice mails…. nothing.
What can an attorney do now before court?
After discussing the case, often I will hear something that I think the police may have overlooked in their investigation. Did they fail to interview witnesses? Did they not document your injuries? I had a client charged with domestic violence, but the police completely ignored her injuries. By documenting those right away and properly, we were able to establish a mutual combat defense that led to the dismissal of all charges. Gathering witness statements and information before memories fade can be crucial.
Remember – the DA is only relying on what’s in the police reports to make a determination about filing charges against you. By presenting additional information and your side of things, the DA may be convinced to not file charges in the first place. You can’t present this to the DA yourself – anything you say could be used against you and the DA won’t speak with you directly, since you’re the one accused of the crime.
What else can you do?
Depending on the facts of the case, doing positive things can also help get us in the best position from the very first court appearance. Counseling, AA meetings, taking positive steps towards fixing the situation may help with remaining out on bail without an increase, getting a reduction in charges, a lower sentence or a dismissal of charges once we get to court.
Every case is unique. Let me know if you want to discuss yours further.
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