The best way to understand what will happen to you if you have a misdemeanor arrest in the greater Sacramento area 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. Depending on the nature of the charges you may or may not be OR’d (released on your own recognizance) before your first court appearance. If you are not OR’d, you will have to post a bail bond to get out of custody. Typically you have to pay a bail bonds agent 10% of the amount of your bail. So, for example, if your bail is $50k, you would have to arraign to make payments of $5k 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 $5k to $4k. In serious cases with high bail, this discount alone makes it worth hiring an attorney.
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. 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 misdemeanor you will not have to personally make any of these appearances due to California Penal Code 977.
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 – Misdemeanor trials can be as short as 3 days or take several weeks depending on the complexity of the trial and the number of witnesses. 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. 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.