How Much will I have to pay?

How much will I have to pay?
I should get a top-notch attorney?  Well-known attorneys will ask for $10,000 or more to handle part of a felony non-prison case.  An attorney that asks for under $1000 to handle the same case probably will not show up.

Our firm does accept cases on a contingency fee basis.  Many personal injury or worker compensation cases are accepted on contingency (client does not pay upfront fee) fee basis if the attorney believes there is a strong likelihood of recovering damages for the client.

Media hungry or celebrity attorneys and doctors aren’t always competent.  Check your attorney or doctor to make sure they don’t have a disciplined by the state.   Hire an attorney you feel comfortable with.

California attorney search, public record of discipline:

Questions you should ask any potential criminal defense attorney

  • How many trials have you done within the last 2 years?
  • Any not guilty verdicts?
  • Any hung trials?
  • Have you ever got someone’s 3rd or 4th strike dismissed (Romero motion)?
  • Have you ever been disciplined by the State or Federal Bar?

What are my fundamental rights in a criminal case?

Every person accused of a crime is guaranteed certain constitutional rights that are aimed to ensure that accused is treated fairly in the criminal justice system.  These individual rights are outlined in the United States Constitution and its ensuing amendments.  Some of these rights are fact specific or have been interpreted in various ways by the courts.  You should contact the Law Firm or a seasoned trial attorney to help explain these rights and the potential application to your particular case.

Fundamental Rights

Right to due process of law
Right to equal protection under the law
Right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure
Right against self-incrimination or being forced to testify against oneself
Right against double jeopardy or being tried more than once for the same offense
Right to legal counsel, even if you cannot afford one
Right to clear notice of criminal charges
Right to a grand jury in federal felony proceedings
Right to a speedy, public trial
Right to an impartial jury trial
Right to confront witnesses and evidence against you
Right to call defense witnesses
Right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment
Prohibition against ex post facto laws (laws that retroactively criminalize acts or increase criminal sanctions)
Right to be free from excessive fines or excessive bail

What happens after I am arrested?

Criminal System Overview
Most criminal cases arise when the police or any other law enforcement agency act on an emergency call or they witness a crime being committed. Law enforcement will generally make an arrest when they have probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. In instances in which a crime is reported long after the incident, or when the accused is no longer at the scene of a crime, law enforcement will seek an arrest warrant from a judge or magistrate. If the judge believes the affidavit in support of the arrest warrant gives rise to probable cause for an arrest (or search warrant of a house, vehicle, etc.), the judge will sign the warrant; this enables the officers to act on the warrant to effectuate an arrest of the suspect or search a particular place or person.

After a person is arrested and booked in jail, they will remain in jail until they are brought before a judge or magistrate for their arraignment, generally within 24-48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays. An arraignment is a hearing where the suspect, now a defendant, is given written notice of the charges they are facing. This document, which is drafted by the prosecution, is called a complaint. The arraignment also consists of: advisement of the nature of the offense and one’s constitutional rights, defense response to complaint (almost always an oral “not guilty” plea is entered), tentative schedule is set for future hearings, bail is addressed (may be set, raised, reduced, or not imposed “released on O.R.”). In cases in which the suspect bails out of jail or is given a citation in lieu of arrest, the arraignment will occur several weeks or even months later. Discovery from the prosecution always accompanies a complaint—this is evidence, usually in the form of a report, that tends to support or disprove that the defendant has committed a crime.

The prosecution, otherwise known as the Office of the District Attorney, decides whether a criminal case submitted by the law enforcement agency is (1) a crime, and (2) the degree or level of severity of the alleged offense. Criminal matters tried in federal court are prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General.

If a case does not resolve at the arraignment stage, the defense and prosecution have an opportunity to resolve the case at the settlement conference or trial readiness conference. At times, the judges call both attorneys into their chambers to see if they can assist in reaching a resolution. Both parties are exchanging discovery prior, during and after these conferences in preparation for trial.
In felony cases, a preliminary examination must be held before the case can be set for trial. At this hearing, the prosecution must present evidence illustrating that there is probable cause to proceed with the criminal case. Most of the time, the evidence comes from oral testimony from law enforcement; percipient witnesses need not be present at the preliminary examination. The defense can cross-examine witnesses and present an affirmative defense. A holding order is entered if the judge believes there is probable cause that a felony has been committed.

When the prosecution and defense cannot agree to a resolution of the criminal case, the case is assigned to a master calendar courtroom so it can be sent to a trial courtroom. Trial is lengthy hearing, in which twelve jurors decide the facts of the case as they are presented to them in court. Jurors that have heard a case can either vote Not Guilty or Guilty. To reach a guilty verdict, all 12 jurors must believe that the charges are true beyond a reasonable doubt; this is a long-standing belief that the charges are true. In cases in which there is no unanimous agreement, the judge will declare a mistrial and set a new date to commence trial.

In the unfortunate case in which all 12 jurors find the defendant guilty, the case will proceed to sentencing unless the attorneys convinces the court that the defendant is entitled to a new trial. Sentencing is when the court imposes the statutory punishment for the crime(s) committed after considering argument by both counsel and any probation reports.
A defendant can appeal the conviction by given the court written notice of its intention to appeal and the basis for the appeal. The rules, deadlines, and standards for appealing a felony and misdemeanor case differ and are highly complicated. Misdemeanor appeals must be filed within 30 days after the court issued the judgment; felony appeals are timely if they are filed within 60 days. In few instances, an attorney may convince a judge to set bail and allow the defendant to remain out of custody (on bail) during an appeal.
Of course, if a person is found not guilty, they will be free to go. Unless the judge is convinced that the defendant is factually innocent, the arrest and acquittal remains on a person’s records

Who decides if I am guilty or not guilty? Jury Trials in Criminal cases

A jury in a California criminal case consists of 12 individuals from the county in which the case is being tried.  All jury members must be:
— US citizen
— legal resident of the county to which you have been summoned
— and at least 18 years of age.

The role of the jury is to decide the facts of a case based on the evidence they perceived in court. Twelve members are selected via a process known as voir dire.  Translated from Latin, this refers to “an oath to tell the truth.”   During voir dire, the potential jury panel members are evaluated individually to determine if each prospective member can be a fair and partial judge of the case, free from bias or outside influence.  Both the judge and the attorneys will ask the panel members question during this stage of the proceeding.
Only a jury can decided whether the accused is guilty of an offense; all 12 members must unanimous agree before rendering a not guilty or guilty verdict.  Hence, the defense, at the minimum, can prevent a conviction by convincing one juror to vote not guilty.  If the jury is deadlocked, the judge must declare a mistrial.  The prosecution must retry the criminal case or attempt to re-negotiate a disposition.
The Law Firm takes great pride in using jury trials as a negotiating tool, particularly in difficult cases (presence of admissions, confessions, narcotics, etc.).  At times, attorney Juan Dotson has defended cases that have resulted in a mistrial due to a jury deadlock.  Rather than face another mistrial, the prosecution amended their stance and accepted pre-trial counter-offers.