An “Arraignment” is the first court date. At the Arraignment a Judge explains the charges against you, and then ask you what you want to do with your case. You can continue your case, enter a plea of “Not Guilty,” or your can plead “Guilty” or No Contest. It is generally unwise to plead guilty or no contest at your first court date because you have not seen the evidence against you. If you are charged with a Misdemeanor you must appear on the Arraignment date unless you hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer. In most misdemeanor cases, your Criminal Defense Lawyer can attend Court for you as your representative pursuant to Penal Code 977. If you are charged with a Felony, then you must appear at the Arraignment and you should do so with an Attorney. After the Arraignment there are many court dates for Pretrial Conferences and Motions, and then either a resolution of the case or Trial.
In Sacramento, the District Attorney will make an offer at arraignment in an attempt to settle the case. If the case cannot be settled, then you will enter a “not guilty” plea and set your case for trial if you are charged with a misdemeanor. If you are charged with a felony, after you enter a not guilty plea your case will be set for preliminary hearing.
Pretrials and Motions
Pretrials are Court dates that occur before a trial begins. These dates are meant to facilitate the exchange of evidence and to foster negotiations between the Prosecutor and the Defense. Pretrial Motions can include Suppression Motions (if evidence or statements were illegally obtained by law enforcement); Motions to Dismiss for lack of speedy prosecution or destruction of evidence; hearings on the admissibility of evidence such as scientific test results of blood, breath, or urine samples; Discovery Motions to obtain evidence held by the prosecution, Motions to set aside an information or indictment; Changes of Venue; Motion to Disclose Informer’s Identity; Right to a Speedy trial; Motions to Appoint an Expert Witness to assist in the Defense; Motions to dismiss based on Discriminatory Prosecution; Motion to Recuse a Prosecutor; Motions to Continue; Motions to Disqualify a Judge.