Getting arrested for a felony charge in the Sacramento area could be a life changing event. The best way to understand a felony arrest is to go through the process chronologically. Please note that these time estimates are the typical time frames for someone who is out of custody. Typically, when the person is not released from custody, these time frames are accelerated and these events move much faster.
Day 1 – Arrest – Once you are arrested you will likely be taken down to the nearest police station. The police may try to interview you. It is always best to remain silent! You should always enforce your Miranda rights.
Due to the fact that you are arrested for a felony it is unlikely that you will be OR’d (released on your own recognizance) before your first court appearance. If you want to get out of custody, you will have to post a bail bond. Typically you have to pay a bail bonds agent 10% of the amount of your bail. So, for example, if your bail is $100k, you would have to arraign to make payments of $10k with your bail agent. You should know that most bail bond agents will give you a 20% discount on your premium if you have an attorney. Therefore in the previous example your share of the bail payment would move from $10k to $8k. In serious cases with high bail, this discount alone makes it worth hiring an attorney.
If you have firearms in your house, the arresting officers might remove all the firearms in the house and store them for “safe keeping”. You will be given a yellow piece of paper that is a receipt for the firearms that were taken. DO NOT LOSE THIS PAPER. This paper will be critical in retrieving your firearms once the process is over with.
Days 3-30 – Arraignment- Your arraignment will be about 3-30 days after your arrest. The smaller counties in the greater Sacramento area tend to have faster arraignments than the larger counties. At the arraignment, the judge reads the charges against you and it is the first time your attorney is able to negotiate with the District Attorney. You should know that 90% of cases end up being a simple continuance at the arraignment. Days 30-180 – Negotiations and more court appearances- This is the time where your attorney will review the discovery from the DA’s office and the witness statements. The particular facts of your case will ultimately determine your best defense strategy. . Your attorney will make several court appearances and argue the strengths of your particular case to the DA. This can take as little as one appearance but frequently takes 4-5 appearances to resolve. As this case is a felony you will not be able to automatically send an attorney in your place. However in certain circumstances your attorney might be able to convince the judge to waive your personal appearance pursuant to California Penal Code 977.
Day 180(+)Preliminary hearing – If you are being charged with a felony, the DA’s office has to prove there is enough evidence to justify a trial. Typically the DA’s office will bring in the officer who arrested you, and possibly the alleged victim to testify at the preliminary hearing. Both the DA and your attorney will have an opportunity to ask the witnesses questions. The standard for a preliminary hearing is much lower than that of a jury trial. Therefore, the practical purpose for the preliminary hearing is to allow a new DA and a new judge to evaluate the case, and hopefully to strike a better plea bargain. If the DA’s case is weak at the preliminary hearing the judge might reduce the charges to a misdemeanor.
Days 180(+) – Trial readiness conferences- If the negations have not resulted in a dismissal or an acceptable plea bargain the case will go to a trial readiness conference. At the TRC your attorney, a new attorney from the DA’s office (usually the one who will handle the trial) and the judge make a last ditch effort to work out a deal. The court does this in an effort to have the county avoid paying for a costly and time consuming trial. Many times the best deals come from the TRC negotiations.
Day 270(+) – Trial – Felony trials tend to be more complicated than misdemeanor trials. Therefore it is difficult to give an estimate for a “standard” felony trial.
If you are acquitted, it is all over and you walk free. If the jury is unable to come to a unanimous decision it is up the DA’s office to decide if your case will be retried. Many times the DA’s office will offer you a severely reduced plea bargain after a mistrial. Even if you are convicted, you can still “win”. Many times the judge will sentence you to a lower amount of time than was offered by the DA if the judge is convinced that your case has merit.