In California, once you are charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor your first appearance will be an arraignment.
If you are arrested for a misdemeanor, you will be given the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. If you plea guilty, or no contest, the court will either sentence you immediately of schedule a sentencing hearing. If you plea not guilty, the court will schedule a pre-trial conference. If you are arrested for a felony, you will enter his plea and the court will set the matter for pre-trial.
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Domestic Violence Arraignment
Domestic violence arraignment is when the court officially informs you of the charges that the District Attorney has filed against you. At this hearing, the judge will addresses bail, sets future court dates, and issue a protective order for the victim. If the victim is not present, the court will automatically impose a protective order which is a temporary restraining order, that prevents you from contacting the victim during the pendency of the proceedings.
Your domestic violence arraignment will occur within 72 hours of your arrest and the judge will do the following:
- Read the charge(s) that have been filed against you by the district attorney;
- Ask you if you need an attorney;
- Ask you for a plea;
- Establish your bail; and,
- Announce the dates for any future hearings.
District Attorney Role
The charges are determined by the district attorney who has reviewed information and circumstances that led to your arrest. The District Attorney is responsible for the prosecution of criminal violations of state law and county ordinances occurring within a county under California Government Code Section 26500. This includes investigation and apprehension, as well as prosecution in court. The District Attorney serves as legal advisor to the Grand Jury and, through its family support division, enforces parental financial obligations.
Your need for an attorney is vital and you should request one before answering any further questions. If you cannot afford one, the court will determine if you qualify as an indigent, and if so will appoint an attorney to defend you. Otherwise, you will have to find your own attorney.
Entering a Plea
You should not enter a plea without an attorney. Possible pleas are:
- Guilty – you admit to the facts surrounding the charge(s) and that you committed the crime(s) charged against you – all that is needed now is a rope!
- Not guilty – you assert that you DID NOT commit the crime charged against you. The judge will then set a pretrial or trial date.
- Nolo contendere or no contest – you do not admit guilt and you do not dispute the charge. Often used to avoid a guilty pleas being used against you in a civil suit.
- There will be no trial if you enter a plea of guilty or no contest and you will be sentenced during this proceeding.
No Harassment Order
If the victim is present, they may request that the Court issue only a “no harassment order” allows contact but no harassing, threatening, or assaultive behavior. The Court will not impose the a no harassment order should the allegations and behavior be deemed dangerous.
No Contact Order
A “no contact order” is an order that requires the defendant to stay away at least 100 yards of the victim, their work, school, and vehicle. The defendant is not allowed to contact the victim directly or indirectly through a third party. That means no email, text, phone or personal contact at all. If the defendant and victim live together, the defendant must move out and can make arrangements through their attorney and have a police officer accompany them to the house to get their things. If there are family Court orders for child custody and visitation, then limited contact for the defendant to visit the children can be authorized by the Criminal Court.
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