Los Angeles Criminal Court Arraignments

Posted on Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 at 5:18 pm    

What is Arraignment?

An arraignment is the process where the defendant formally hears the criminal charges and has an opportunity to enter a plea (e.g., guilty, not guilty, no contest, etc.). In Los Angeles County it is one of the first stages of the criminal process. Arraignment is usually the first time a defendant is brought before a judge, informed of his or her rights, and given an opportunity to admit or deny the charges.

It is also the time when the prosecutor’s charging document is filed with the court. The charging document is technically called a “complaint,” “information,” or “indictment,” depending on the type of case. The document will lay out the crimes that the prosecutor says the defendant committed.

How is Bail Set?

The judge typically sets bail at an arraignment.   There are a lot of specifics about how the bail amount is determined and what an attorney can do to potentially lower or eliminate the bail.  Learn more at the Spolin Law P.C. Complete Guide to Bail.

When Does The Arraignment Occur?

Arraignment usually occurs after the defendant has been arrested. When a defendant is kept in custody after being arrested, the arraignment must occur within 48 hours of the arrest. The 48-hour period does not include weekends or holidays, however, so a Friday arrest can result in a long period of jail time before arraignment, as can any arrest during or directly before a major holiday.

Do You Need To Be Present At Your Arraignment?

If you are charged with a felony you generally have to be physically present at arraignment. If you are charged with a misdemeanor you generally do not have to be present if you have an attorney who can appear on your behalf. Nonetheless, a judge can still order your appearance on a misdemeanor case. If you are not released after your arrest, you will be present at your arraignment because the officers will bring you to your arraignment while in custody.

What Happens At Arraignment?

During arraignment the judge, a clerk of the judge, or a prosecutor will read the charging document out loud. The judge will try to determine the defendant’s true name, in case he or she was arrested under an incorrect name. The judge will also advise the defendant of his or her rights, as determined by the US and California constitutions and California law. The defendant will then have the opportunity to enter his or her plea (including guilty, not guilty, no contest, or similar plea).

Finally, the judge will decide whether the defendant has to be in jail while the case progresses or whether the defendant can be free during the course of the case. Judges frequently set a “bail” amount, which means that the defendant will be kept in jail unless he or she deposits the bail money to the court. That money is returned to the defendant (or whoever paid it) at the conclusion of the case as long as the defendant showed up for all mandatory court dates.

What Happens After Arraignment?

At the end of the arraignment, the judge will set a schedule for the case. Dates for pre-trial motions and hearings will be set. A motion is a legal request by one of the lawyers for a certain action, like a defense lawyer’s motion to suppress evidence or dismiss the case. The trial date can also be set at arraignment. If the judge sets a bail amount, the defendant will be given a chance to pay the bail after arraignment.

What Difference Does a Good Lawyer Make At Arraignment?

The quality of your attorney can have a significant impact on the arraignment. This is in great part because of the attorney’s role in the bail argument. During arraignment the judge will decide whether to keep the defendant in jail until the case is over or release the defendant for the duration of the case. A judge can also set a huge bail amount (e.g., $1,000,000 bail), which effectively means that the defendant will stay in jail for the entire case.

An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney will more likely be able to make strong arguments to the judge regarding release and bail. If your attorney is able to argue for a low bail amount, this can be the difference between months in jail before trial versus months living free and fighting the charges from the outside.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.


Criminal Defense Attorney Attacked by District Attorney’s Office Investigator

Posted on Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 at 10:07 am    

Los Angeles criminal defense attorney James Crawford was attacked on March 9th while inside a courthouse preparing for hearings.  In fact, attorney Crawford describes an attack carried out by an investigator for the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.  Photos after the assault and battery show Crawford with a large, swollen red and black area under his eye, other bruising on his face, and a collared shirt splattered with blood.

Crawford is a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles with a focus on white collar crime, DUI and DWI offenses, federal crime, and domestic violence.  He described his interaction with the DA’s investigator as one-sided and catching him completely by surprise.  According to Crawford, he approached a witness to advise the witness of his rights.  A DA investigator in charge of the witness interfered with Crawford’s communication, and the exchange escalated.  Then, when Crawford noted the allegations of misconduct arising from the county’s jailhouse informant program, the investigator rushed towards Crawford and began to punch him repeatedly in the head and face.  Multiple Santa Ana police officers eventually pulled the investigator off of Crawford.  The investigator is currently on leave as a result of the incident.

The president of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Matthew Guerrero, has called for a “thorough, independent” investigation into what occurred, including the disclosure of any records, video, or other documents related to the incident.

While the District Attorney’s Office has not released an alternative version of events, Guerrero is currently criticizing law enforcement for its non-communicative reaction, describing it as “circling the wagons.”  President of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs, Tom Dominguez, has called for calm as the incident is investigated, and is arguing that defense attorney Crawford may be simply trying to “drum up a payday.”

A conviction for simple misdemeanor assault could result in up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, while misdemeanor battery has the same maximum jail sentence but a maximum $2,000 fine.  In addition, a conviction would almost certainly result in the investigator losing his job and no longer being eligible for a position in a law enforcement agency.  Nonetheless, the outcome of the fracas involves a number of open questions, including whether there is sufficient public trust in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to have final say over whether to prosecute a member of their own office.  Any decision not to prosecute will be described as a result of an inherent conflict of interest.  It is for this reason, among others, that some, including Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed, argue that the DA’s Office may need to be subjected to federal oversight.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.


Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Running for Congress

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2016 at 10:13 am    

Prominent Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Marcus Musante is running for Congress in California’s 44th congressional district.  While a very high percentage of congress-members are attorneys by trade, very few come from criminal defense backgrounds. Most are former civil attorneys, government attorneys, or prosecutors.  However, this defense lawyer notes his extensive background on both sides of the courtroom, including as a former prosecutor for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

Attorney Musante is campaigning on a record of fighting for public safety, the rights of low income and minority populations, and a history of pro bono volunteer work for the community.  While challenges to incumbent congress-members have a low success rate, current Congresswoman Janice Hahn has previously announced that she is retiring from Congress to run for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Rep. Janice Hahn Leaving Congress for LA County Board of Supervisors.

In 2011, before Musante became a criminal defense attorney, he achieved a level of prominence in Los Angeles when he ran for District Attorney.  A deputy district attorney at the time, Musante promised that, should he be elected, he would not prosecute any drug possession cases.  LA Weekly Article from 2011.  He argued that such an act would have diminished the workload of law enforcement substantially, allowing peace officers and prosecutors to focus more on violent crime.  He also vowed to avoid the death penalty and diminish use of prior strikes, which can substantially lengthen prison terms for certain low-level felony offenses.  He noted in the LA Weekly article: “We have to tell the difference between a criminal and a bad guy. A guy may have a prior strike from 20 years ago. That strike, even if it’s just knucklehead stuff, it just buries him.”  This commentary is notable, especially given the fact that he was not yet an advocate for criminal defendants but was, at the time, a career prosecutor.

The 44th congressional district includes parts of southern Los Angeles and extends south to the coast in San Pedro.  It includes the areas of Compton, Downey, East Compton, Lynwood, San Pedro, Wilmington, and North Long Beach, among other areas.  Other candidates for the office include State Senator Isadore Hall and Hemosa Beach City Councilwoman Nanette Barragan.  Neither of the other candidates are involved in the criminal justice system, although Ms. Barragan is an attorney.  Fall 2015 candidate fundraising reports indicate that Musante is lagging far behind Hall and Barragan, with approximately $17,000 cash on hand compared to Barragan’s $210,000 and Hall’s $500,000.  See BallotPedia’s Fundraising Reports for more information.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.


Inmates Escape from Orange County Jail – A Discussion of the Crime of “Escape”

Posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2016 at 10:37 am    

On Friday three inmates accused of major felonies escaped from the Orange County Men’s Jail, located 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles in the Santa Ana area. The three men were in custody pending pre-trial proceedings and trial for unrelated charges of murder, kidnapping, and torture.  An area-wide manhunt is now underway.

The Orange County Sheriff announced the escapes today.  The Sheriff’s Office has determined that the inmates escaped by cutting through half-inch steel bars, climbing through a sewage pipe, and using bed sheets tied together as a rope to climb down four stories.

While the charges that the inmates faced are certainly serious, their act of escape may also meaningfully lengthen their sentences.  Under California law, escaping from a jail when facing felony charges is itself a felony (although a prosecutor has discretion to charge the offense as a misdemeanor). Escape is defined as

  • “an unlawful departure”
  • “from the limits of an inmate’s custody”
  • by an individual lawfully in custody

People v Gallegos (1974).  Conviction of “escape” can result in a prison sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years, depending on the decision of the sentencing judge.

An escape attempt for inmates who have yet to face trial will also likely impact their upcoming trial.  This is because prosecutors are given wide latitude to show evidence of the defendant’s conduct that indicates “consciousness of guilt.”  That is, assuming a judge does not determine that the incident would unfairly prejudice the jury against the defendant, a prosecutor can show evidence of the escape to demonstrate that the defendant knew he or she was guilty and wanted to escape the prospect of conviction at trial.  Fleeing from police or otherwise avoiding capture are other examples of conduct by an accused that can frequently be used at trial to show consciousness of guilt.

As the search for the three inmates continues, check back for updates on the status of the manhunt and on whether they will indeed be charged with and prosecuted for the crime of escape.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.


Misdemeanor Criminal Charges Arise Out of Drone Use In Downtown Los Angeles

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 2:35 pm    

On January 21st the City of Los Angeles announced the first criminal charges against a drone operator.  City Attorney Mike Feuer said that the two defendants, who are 20 and 35 years old respectively, will face misdemeanor charges. For the younger defendant, this is the second time he allegedly flew his drone in restricted areas.

It is a misdemeanor under Los Angeles law for an individual to operate a drone within five miles of an airport, 25 feet of a person, or in excess of 500 feet in the air.  Besides having a misdemeanor on one’s personal record, this may also result in up to six months in jail and a fine.  The Los Angeles drone ordinance is posted here: LA Regulations on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which can be found online.

According to the City Attorney’s office, the defendants operated a drone near the Los Angeles Police Department’s helipad in downtown LA, and the presence of the drone required a police air vehicle to divert from its intended landing path.

Legislatures and local government entities are passing drone laws with increasing frequency, although enforcement with criminal sanctions has been rare so far.  As technology has developed, drones have become more and more sophisticated and are now posing significant dangers to airborne aircraft and even people who may inadvertently come into contact with a drone flying at a very low altitude.

It is unclear at this early state what, if any, defenses are being raised by those charged with the drone laws.  The Los Angeles city ordinance (cited above) does not mention the required mental state of the defendant.  This could mean that, unless a court interprets an implied required mental state, the defendant may not be able to argue that the drone’s entrance into the five-mile area near the airport was an accident.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.