Video: California Misdemeanor Process & Procedure – CA Lawyer Joseph Tully

Legal author and certified California criminal law specialist explains California's misdemeanor process and procedure for people charged with a crime in California.

Transcript of Lawyer Joseph Tully Video on CA Misdemeanor Procedure

If you're listening to this right now, you've either just recently been arrested or bailed out or you've received some sort of summons to come to court: a citation from a police officer or a sheriff's deputy. A lot of times people are afraid to go to court. The first court date is coming closer and the anxiety just becomes more and more intense.

Arraignment: Your First Misdemeanor Court Date

But, the first court date is usually the easiest court date to get through. The first court date is called an arraignment and really all you do is show up with a lawyer, the judge will give your lawyer a sheet of the charges, it's called the Complaint and you will learn the charges that the DA or City Attorney has filed against you and your attorney will plead Not Guilty for you.

Right to a Speedy Trial in California: In-Custody or Out-of-Custody Rules

We all know from the Constitution that you have a right to a speedy trial. If you're out of custody in California and you want to proceed on a speedy trial basis that means the DA has forty-five days to try your case. If they can't put their case together in forty-five days, they have to dismiss. And again, because this is a misdemeanor and they only get one shot your case will be gone forever.

For in-custody defendants, it's the same rule, except it's thirty days. So, if someone is in custody and they insist on a speedy trial and they're facing misdemeanor charges, the DA would only have thirty days to put their case together, or they would have to let the case go, or the case would be dismissed.

Time Waivers in CA Misdemeanor Cases – Waiving Right to Speedy Trial

After your lawyer pleads not guilty to the charges, there are common practices in all jurisdictions in California for misdemeanor cases. So think of arraignment where you hear the charges and when your lawyer pleads Not Guilty as the kickoff. After a kickoff, everything starts from there. You have the right to proceed on a speedy trial basis, or you have the right to give up the speedy trial and proceed on a time-waived basis.

Pre-Trial & Readiness Conference in Misdemeanor Cases

The judge, after he or she accepts the not guilty plea and hears from your lawyer on the time waiver status, will set future dates. Some common future dates are a pre-trial, where your lawyer gets together with the DA and sometimes with the judge and the lawyers try to work out a plea bargain.

A readiness conference, which is where your lawyer will show up and say “Ready” or “Not Ready” for trial. In other words, the judge doesn't want lawyers showing up on the day of trial saying “I'm not ready”, because witnesses, juries, police officers, courtroom scheduling would all be inconvenienced if that were to happen. So, a judge wants to hear ready or not ready before the jury trial date.

Misdemeanor Jury Trial: Dismissal, Plea Bargain or Verdict

Then, of course, the jury trial. Once a case starts, it only stops under three conditions: One, there's a dismissal; two the defendant accepts a plea bargain, or three the case goes to jury trial and the jury says guilty or not guilty. Those are the only three conditions that a case stops under.

This information is just meant to give you a rough basic outline of the misdemeanor procedure in California. For more detailed information, you should consult with a criminal defense attorney who can guide you further through the process. I wish you the best of luck throughout this process.

Thank you.

Joseph Tully Certified Criminal Law Specialist – CA Criminal Defense Attorney