Monder Law Group - News
WHAT TO EXPECT BEFORE YOUR FIRST HEARING?
You have been accused of a crime and law enforcement is investigating you. The investigation will include the following:
- 911 calls
- Arrest report
- Medical reports
- Pictures of the scene
- Pictures of any injuries
- Witness statements
Based on these findings, law enforcement will draft a police report and make a recommendation of the initial charges against you.
It is important that you understand that the charges listed on your citation, arrest paperwork, or on your bail information sheet are only the initial charges. These are the charges that law enforcement has recommended based on the details that led to your arrest. Ultimately it will be the issuing attorney at the District Attorney or City Attorney’s Office who will decide the formal charges against you. This means that from the time of your booking until your first appearance before a judge, the charges against you are under review. During this time, the issuing attorney will review the police report and reach out to the alleged victim to make their determination of the charges. This is a crucial time for your defense because it means that the charges may either be aggravated or mitigated. In the hands of an experienced criminal defense attorney, your charges could be reduced or even dismissed before you are ever formally charged. The way this process works, is by submitting a mitigation packet for the issuing attorney to review in order to mitigate the initial charges against you.
The best defense is a strong offense; a mitigation packet is the perfect strategy for your attorney to present you in the best light. You want the issuing attorney to have an opportunity to see you as the person you are and not the criminal act you are accused of. In order to accomplish this, a skilled criminal defense attorney will need to complete a mitigation investigation and provide report evidence. A mitigation investigation will consist of the following:
- Psychological evaluation
- Medical examination
- Inquiry into family history
- Inquiry into social history
- Inquiry into criminal history
- Interview family, friends, peers, teachers, employers, clergy members
- Accounting of financial responsibilities
The evidence derived from this investigation will provide the mitigating circumstances for your case. This evidence will be submitted to the issuing attorney in the form of a mitigation packet for the District Attorney’s Office or the City Attorney’s office to review. A mitigation packet will generally include the following:
- Character letters
- Education certifications
- Employment references
- Community service
- Military service
- Financial responsibilities
- Personal struggles/ achievements
This report evidence should shed light on your positive character traits, offer insight into your life and show the detriment of the current charges against you. Remember that the whole goal of a mitigation packet is to dismiss or reduce the charges against you by demonstrating that the mitigating circumstances outweigh the issuing attorney’s decision to prosecute.
Once the District Attorney’s Office or the City Attorney’s office has reviewed your case, any formal charges against you will be addressed in the complaint. A complaint is the legal instrument that begins the criminal proceeding. The issuing attorney uses this document to formally file charges against a criminal defendant. A complaint will provide you with the following:
- State the cause of action
- Identify the defendant
- The date of the alleged offense
- Provide the relevant statutes/ laws
- Establish the formal charges
- Statement of the specific facts of the case
- Supporting evidence against you
If the District Attorney’s or City Attorney’s Office decides to prosecute you, the issuing attorney must file a criminal complaint with the court swearing under oath that the complaint is truthful and accurate. A criminal complaint will either charge you with a misdemeanor, a felony or both.
These are the less serious offenses in a criminal proceeding. Misdemeanor offenses are typically punishable by fines or summary probation. If you are sentenced to county jail for a misdemeanor, it cannot be for more than one year.
These are the more serious offenses in a criminal proceeding. Felony offenses are typically punishable by terms of incarceration in California state prison. If you are sentenced to state prison for a felony, the California penal code will determine the penalties and establish a range of possible sentences depending on your conviction.
These are offenses that the issuing attorney has discretion to charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This decision is important to your defense because it will determine the penalties that you could face if convicted of the charges against you. To make this determination the issuing attorney will look at any aggravating factors in your case and weigh them against your specific mitigating circumstances. Aggravating factors are any evidence that may enhance the underlying offense. While mitigating factors is evidence that reduces your culpability.