Your San Jose Criminal Case: The Basics

This is the last time you're bailing your deadbeat husband out of jail. Every time you turn around he's getting picked up for another drug charge. Tonight he was hanging out at a Sharks game and the cops found dope on him. They claim he was selling, but you don't know what to think anymore. It's pretty serious. He's still on probation for a felony out of Oakland last year and now he's being held at Elmwood. There's no way you can come up with the doesn't the bail money this time.

If you are looking for answers about a San Jose criminal case, check out this article. Not all cases in Santa Clara County are the same, but this will give you a basic idea of what to expect.

The Police

If you've been arrested, it was probably by the San Jose Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, or the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department.

You've probably seen a whole lot of TV shows and movies where the cops refuse to follow the rules. Contrary to what you've seen on television, the police must follow certain rules. If they don't, it could jeopardize the state's case against you.

One of the most important rules is your right against self-incrimination. You should be read your Miranda rights. You've heard the words. "You have the right to remain silent." Then, the police have two options: take you to jail for booking or release you with a promise to appear at a later date.

Bail

There's two ways you can leave the jail -- you'll either be released on your own recognizance or have to post bail. Bail is money that you have to pay to the courts in order to be released from jail pending trial. You usually have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.

Arraignment

The first time you enter a courtroom it will likely be for your arraignment. It will happen at one of the San Jose courthouses. The judge will advise you of your constitutional rights, give you a copy of the charges against you and ask if you wish to be referred to the public defender. Usually, at this hearing you'll enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. The court will also set future court dates for either a pretrial conference or preliminary hearing.

Waiving Time

If you aren't in custody, you have the right to go to trial within 45 days of your arraignment/plea. If your lawyer needs more time, you can continue the your case beyond that deadline in order to prepare your case. Its called "waiving time." You are not giving up your right to go to trial, just the right to have the trial within 45 days. If you are in custody, you have a right to go to trial within 30 days of your arraignment/plea.

Your Misdemeanor Case

A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have repercussions beyond the courtroom. If you're a non-citizen, a misdemeanor can impact your immigration status.

Common San Jose misdemeanors include driving under the influence (DUI), petty theft, assault, minor drug possession, hit-and-run, and some domestic violence -- just to name a few.

The maximum penalty is up to one year in the county jail and a fine. The more "aggravated" the misdemeanor, the more likely you will receive a longer sentence. Examples of aggravated misdemeanors include second or third DUIs, domestic violence offenses, and repeat suspended license crimes.

Pretrial Conference

Your case will be set for a pretrial conference, where parties can talk about the case and try to reach a resolution. There may be more than one pretrial conference in order to prepare for this discussion. If an agreement cannot be reached the case is set for trial.

Because every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent, the burden is on the district attorney to convince 12 jurors that you are guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Your Felony Case

A felony charge is pretty serious. A conviction carries enormous penalties including years of prison time, large fines, and major repercussions for the rest of your life. Typical felonies include murder, robbery, sexual assault, or drugs sales.

Trial

If you go to trial, the prosecution must prove you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

You have the right to a jury trial where twelve people decide your guilt or innocence. Both the prosecutor and defense will present evidence. It's important to remember that you can't be compelled to testify.

All twelve jurors must agree in order to convict or acquit you. If the jury finds you guilty, the judge will sentence you.

A Final Word

Criminal cases can have a serious, lasting impact on your life. You have options and rights. If the prosecutor doesn't have sufficient evidence to prove that you committed an offense, you may be entitled to a dismissal or a reduction in your charge. Similarly, if the cops violated your civil rights during the investigation or prosecution of your case, a judge may suppress certain evidence in your case, meaning that the State cannot use the evidence against you at trial. If you've been charged with an offense, you may want to at least consider consulting a criminal defense attorney.

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