Whether from the media or rumor, many people have misconceptions about the criminal process. These pages seek to clarify the basic stages and what strategy is best followed at each.
Prefiling In some cases, where you have good reason to believe that charges will be filed against you, early negotiations with the district attorney can reach a resolution that protects your record and resolves the issue. Generally speaking these cases are rare but when they arise, a prefiling effort may avoid arrest. Arraignment The arraignment simply means a short proceeding where you are informed of the charges against you and your constitutional rights. Generally you will also enter a plea of "not guilty" at an arraignment. An attorney can streamline this process for you. Preliminary Hearing In California, if you are accused of a felony, the prosecution must show that it has enough evidence to proceed to trial against you. This is usually done at a preliminary hearing where the testimony comes from police officers. If you are "held to answer" then an information will be filed against you and your case will proceed to trial. Rarely a grand jury is used instead of a preliminary hearing. If it is, then an indictment will issue if the grand jury finds probable cause. Defendants do not usually win at the preliminary hearing stage because the burden of proof is so low. A preliminary hearing is still useful to the defense attorney who will learn basic information about the strength of the case against you.