I was arrested in Orange County – do I need a defense attorney?

The short answer is yes.  Think about all that’s working against you already.  If the police think they had enough evidence to arrest you, your case is more than likely going to be referred to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

So what should you do in the time period between when you were arrested and when you are supposed to appear in court for your first appearance?

Do not discuss the case with anyone!

The law recognizes only a few relationships where anything you say cannot be divulged – with your spouse, your priest and your attorney.  Everyone else on the planet – your parents, children, best friends – they can all be called as a witness against you if you admit anything to them.  Don’t get yourself or them in that position – don’t discuss what happened.  You have constitutional rights that can protect you, but only if you’re aware of them and use them.

If you have the means, contact a defense attorney.

Why?  Because you can bet the police and the district attorney are working to gather evidence to build a case against you.  Until and unless you are represented by an attorney, the police can try to contact you and get incriminating statements to be used against you.  A defense attorney can advise you about how to protect your rights, what options you have in mounting a defense and how to be best prepared to go to court and defend yourself.

Will I have to appear in court?

Assuming you made bail, you will have a date to appear in court.  If you do not appear on that date and charges have been filed against you, a warrant will be issued for your arrest and your bail will be forfeited.  You must appear in court on that date.  If the case is a felony, your personal appearance is required.  For most misdemeanors, your attorney can appear on your behalf.  See here for what happens at the first court appearance.

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