After a person who has been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Los Angeles enters a plea of “not guilty” at arraignment, the case will then proceed to pretrial. During the pretrial phase, the prosecution, defense and court will work on resolving various issues that may exist. In addition, most of the discovery process occurs during the pretrial phase and this is where plea bargaining is generally conducted. The Court will also hear any pretrial motions during this phase. The majority of criminal offenses are resolved in the pretrial phase.
Depending on the circumstances, there may be numerous pretrial conferences before a case goes to trial or there may be just one. A person is entitled to a speedy trial within a statutory set time, however it may be to his or her advantage to waive a speedy trial. The discovery process can often extend for a lengthy period of time and it may be in the defendant’s interest to have numerous pretrials to ensure that all discovery is received.
Discovery refers to the rules regarding how evidence in a case is to be provided to the opposing side. California’s discovery rules apply to both the prosecution and defense and both sides are generally responsible for turning over any evidence that would be used at trial. The prosecution is required to turn over evidence and information relating to its case. The prosecution must also turn over any and all exculpatory evidence that is favorable to the defendant. The defense attorney will usually submit an informal discovery request to the prosecutor. If the prosecution fails to comply with the defendant’s request for discovery, the defense can file a formal discovery request with the court and can have a hearing regarding the prosecution’s failure to comply. If the judge determines that the prosecutor has violated his or her discovery obligations, sanctions may be imposed. These sanctions can include not allowing the prosecution to use the evidence during trial or even dismissing the underlying criminal charges.
Upon receiving a discovery request, the prosecutor will ask the relevant law enforcement agency to provide the requested material. Depending on the agency involved, it may take a substantial amount of time for the discovery material to be provided, and it may be necessary to hold several pretrials while this material is still outstanding.
Certain motions are also held at pretrial hearings. Common motions heard during pretrial include motions to suppress evidence pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1538.5 PC, Pitchess motions and Serna motions.
A motion to suppress evidence allows the defendant to challenge the validity of the stop, search, seizure or arrest in his or her case. If the Court determines that the police officer did not comply with the law, the resulting evidence may be suppressed and the prosecution will usually dismiss the charge because they are unable to go forward.
A Pitchess motion is a request to obtain information from a police officer’s personnel file. Specifically, the defense is looking for disciplinary action that may have been taken against the officer and whether the officer has committed police misconduct in the past. During a Pitchess motion, the judge will review the records in chamber before determining what, if anything, can be revealed to the defense.
A Serna motion is a motion to dismiss based on a speedy trial violation. These are often filed in cases in which the defendant was never arraigned on an old violation and the case has been in warrant status for years. The judge may determine that the delay was not justified and that the defendant’s speedy trial rights have been violated.
In addition, much of the plea bargaining that occurs between the defense and the prosecution occurs during pretrial hearings. The defendant’s attorney can present exculpatory evidence to the prosecutor and can point out potential weaknesses in the case. The prosecutor may be willing to reduce the charges or to reach a resolution that is agreeable to the defense.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense, it is critical that you meet with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is highly skilled at defending clients at all stages of the criminal process, including pretrial.
For more information about Los Angeles pretrials, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.