The general procedure for a misdemeanor case is outlined below, and typically takes about 4 months from filing of the complaint through trial. Misdemeanor cases are less formal than felony cases and, with few exceptions, defendants are not required to be present in court for each court hearing. In fact, one of the greater benefits of hiring your own defense attorney is that California law allows the defense attorney to appear for you in court. This means that you do not need to take time off of work or school to go to court.
- Complaint Filed
Formal charging document prepared either by the District Attorney or the City Attorney.
- Arraignment on the Charges
The charges are read to the defendant, he is informed of his constitutional rights, and he enters a not guilty plea.
- Settlement/Negotiation/Readiness Conference
First opportunity for the defense attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge to discuss andnegotiate the case. In federal court the judge does not participate in the negotiation or plea bargaining process.
- Motions Hearings
Depending on the specific facts of each case, various motions can be filed and argued. Typical motions include motions to suppress evidence, discovery motions, and Pitchess motions.
The defendant is entitled to a jury trial or, with the consent of the prosecutor, to a bench trial (a trial by a judge).