What to Expect if You’re Charged with a Crime in Los Angeles

criminal defense lawyer

Being charged with a crime in Los Angeles is unnerving, to say the least. The sprawling city of Los Angeles, filled with nearly four million residents, sees thousands facing criminal charges every year. As per the Los Angeles Times, the LAPD made 67,553 arrests in the city in 2019 alone. But do not panic. Knowledge is power. Engaging a criminal defense lawyer is a crucial step. This article will walk you through what you can expect in such a scenario.

Understanding the Charges

First, it is crucial to fully comprehend your charges. Initially, you may only know the name of the crime but understanding what evidence is required to prove your guilt is vital. For instance, drug possession requires proof that you knowingly had drugs on your person or possession. Each crime has specific elements that must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, and knowing these details can help target your defense strategy.

Hiring a Defense Attorney

You have a legal right to represent yourself. However, it can be extremely beneficial to hire a defense attorney who understands local laws and court procedures in Los Angeles. They can guide you through the process and build a strong defense strategy that addresses all aspects of your case. Seek out an attorney who specializes in the charges you are facing as they might have necessary expertise and experience.

Arraignment Stage

Within 48 hours of arrest, excluding weekends and holidays, arraignment takes place where you would be formally charged. The judge will read the charges against you and will ask for your plea: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. At this point, if you have not hired an attorney yet, one can be provided for you.

Argument of Bail

Bail is frequently set at the arraignment stage. Your lawyer can argue for a lower bail amount or even your release on the condition that you promise to appear in court when required. Remember this, bail can be extraordinarily high in Los Angeles, sometimes reaching into six-figure dollar amounts. These figures make having a competent attorney all the more important.

Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is another stage in the process. Here, your attorney and the prosecuting attorney may discuss reducing your charges, lessening your sentence, or dismissing your case in exchange for a specific plea. If negotiations fail, a trial date will be set.

Pretrial Motions

Your defense attorney may file pretrial motions to suppress evidence that was illegally obtained or to dismiss your case if there is insufficient evidence. The judge must rule on these motions before the trial begins, and their decisions can greatly impact the outcome of your case.

Jury Selection

Jury selection is another crucial stage of the process. Both sides will have an opportunity to interview potential jurors and make choices based on who they think would be most favorable to their client’s case. An experienced attorney will know what to look for in potential jurors, which can have a significant impact on your case.

Opening Statements

At trial, both sides will present their opening statements. This gives them the opportunity to outline their arguments and set the tone for their case. It’s important that you prepare thoroughly with your attorney ahead of this time.

Presentation of Evidence

The prosecution presents evidence first followed by your defense team. Each piece of evidence and every witness can be cross-examined by the opposing side to either corroborate or refute the claims being made.

Closing Arguments

After all the evidence is presented, both sides make their closing arguments. This is effectively the last chance to persuade the jury of your innocence. Your attorney should summarize key points of your defense and attempt to create reasonable doubt about your guilt.

Jury Deliberations

Once closing arguments conclude, the jury then deliberates. The length of deliberation can vary widely depending on complexity of the case and the jury itself. They are tasked with deciding whether the evidence suffices beyond reasonable doubt of your guilt.

Verdict Delivery

The verdict is delivered by jury in a public court session. If they cannot reach unanimous decision for serious felonies, it is considered a ‘hung jury’ and a mistrial could be declared.

Sentencing Process

If you are found guilty, a separate sentencing hearing will take place. Here, factors like past criminal history, seriousness of crime and other contexts may influence the judge when determining your sentence.

Appeal Opportunities

If there are legal errors that affected verdict or sentence, you have right to appeal. This is where findings from trial court will be reviewed by appellate courts to ensure justice has been served and fair process adhered.

In Conclusion

Being charged with a crime in Los Angeles can be an overwhelming experience. But with knowledge of what to expect throughout the process, from charges to potential appeal, you can better prepare for what lies ahead. A competent and relentless attorney at your side going through each step can significantly improve your chances for optimal outcome.

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