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Criminal Defense FAQ

What happens if I have been arrested?

If a person has been taken into custody or deprived of their freedom of movement, they must be “mirandized.”  That means before any questioning, the person must be: warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.

Once taken to the detention facility, the defendant is processed, meaning that his/her fingerprints and a booking photo are taken.  Bail is then set according to the bail schedule.  A person may bail out by paying the entire amount of bail or pay a bail bondsmen a percentage of the bail, typically 10%, to post bail for the defendant.  If the individual is unable to unwilling to pay the bail, he/she will remain in custody until his/her arraignment.

The defendant’s first appearance in court is called an arraignment.  At the arraignment, the defendant has an opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or request a continuance of his/her arraignment. If the defendant is in custody, he/she also has an opportunity to request a bail reduction to have his/her bail set at a lesser amount.  If the defendant pleads guilty he/she is then sentenced.  If the defendant pleads not guilty, a future court date is set.

At the future court date, the defendant’s attorney and the prosecutor will have an opportunity to discuss the case and see if a “plea bargain” can be reached.  A plea bargain is an agreement between the defense attorney and prosecutor to a lesser charge or lesser punishment in lieu of the original charge and/or punishment.  If a plea bargain is not reached, the case may be set for other motions or trial.

What is bail?

Bail is a process through which an individual who has been arrested pays a set amount of money to obtain release from the detention facility or jail.  By paying the bail, the suspect promises to appear in court for all scheduled criminal proceedings — including arraignment, preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and the trial itself.  If the suspect fails to appear in court as scheduled, a warrant will be issued for the defendant’s arrest and any amounts posted as bail will be forfeited.

If the defendant chooses not to post bail, cannot afford bail, or is not eligible for bail, an attorney can ask for a bail reduction at the arraignment or a bail review hearing. The amount of bail is typically set according to a “bail schedule,” but in some cases, the amount of bail may be determined by other factors such as:

  • The seriousness of the crime
  • The defendant’s criminal record
  • The potential danger that the defendant poses to the community
  • The defendant’s ties to the community, including family and employment
A defendant or his family/friends may put up the full amount of the bail as set by the court or a “bond” may be posted by a bail bonds company in lieu of the full amount.  A bond is a written guarantee that the full bail amount will be paid in the event that the suspect fails to appear as promised.  The bail bond company charges a fee based upon the amount of the bail in exchange for posting of the bond (typically 10% percent of the bail amount).

Do I need an Attorney?

The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides the accused with the right to counsel.  This right should not be given up.  If you have been charged with a crime you need to hire an attorney or have one appointed if you cannot afford one.

There is a lot at stake in criminal cases:

  • Possible jail time
  • Loss of driver’s license
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Criminal Record

An experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer knows the system and how to challenge (and sometimes suppress) evidence; properly file court documents; and handle other legal procedures. If you’re not an attorney, you may struggle performing these tasks and ultimately hurt your case.

A good San Diego criminal defense attorney has a network of professionals to help their clients’ cases, including investigators and expert witness. Most non-attorneys do not personally know the types of professionals who can help with discovery or challenge evidence or testimony by the prosecution.

An experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer probably has seen cases similar to yours and can make an educated guess about your likelihood of success at trial. Sometimes a “plea bargain” is the best choice, while other times it may make sense to go to trial.  A good San Diego criminal defense lawyer may be able convince the prosecutor to offer a “plea bargain” that you would not be able to obtain on your own.

Can I afford an attorney?

The Mortlock Law Group charges reasonable rates and accepts Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express.  In addition, the Mortlock Law Group is willing to setup payment plans in some circumstances.  Please contact the Mortlock Law Group for a free consultation and quote.

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