FIND ANSWERS TO COMMON LEGAL QUESTIONS

Q
What should I do if a police officer, detective, or investigator comes to my home and starts asking me questions, or asks me to call or meet with him/her?
AIt is in your best interest not to speak to the officer — nothing good can come of talking to the police. You may not know who, what, or why they are investigating you. They may try to trick you into making a statement they can use against you later. Politely tell the police you are not willing to talk to them without a lawyer present.
Q
If there is a warrant for my arrest, can the police search my home without getting a search warrant?
AIt depends.  If the warrant is a search warrant that authorizes search of your home, then yes.  Otherwise no.  Practically speaking, if police have a warrant only for your arrest, they will wait until you are out in public to arrest you.
Q
Are there any legal consequences for a homeowner if another resident of the home is selling drugs?
AIf the police can prove the homeowner knew about the drugs, they are just as guilty as the person selling the drugs.  If you are aware of someone selling drugs out of your home you should issue an eviction notice immediately and remove all of their property from your home.
Q
What happens if I am arrested?
ATypically when you are arrested, you will be handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle.  You will then be driven to the local jail and “booked.”  The law requires you see a judge within 48 hours to be arraigned; the judge will either deny bail, set a bail amount you can pay to be released until your next court date, or release you “OR” (own recognizance) and you don’t have to pay any bail.
Q
What is an arraignment?
AAn arraignment is your first court date where you must appear in front of a judge to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”  For all felony crimes you must be present.  For most (but not all) misdemeanors, your lawyer can appear on your behalf.  The police officer who investigated and/or arrested you, witnesses, etc. will not be present.  Your arraignment is also where the judge will set a bail amount for you.
Q
How can I bail my loved one out of jail?
ABail will be set based on a uniform bail schedule.  Essentially, a person is “booked” for certain charges and those charges will determine the bail amount.  At the first hearing before a judge, he or she can modify bail.  You can hire a bail bondsman who will post a bond (promise to pay the bail) if you do not show up to court.  You are typically required to pay 10% of the bail amount to the bondsman.  If you use a bail bondsman, you will not get refunded the 10% you paid them.  Alternately, you can post the entire bail in cash yourself.   If you post the bail yourself you will get all the money back as long as your loved one shows up to every court date.
Q
What is a preliminary hearing?
AA preliminary hearing is like a “trial before a trial” where a judge hears evidence and arguments on felony cases to determine if there is enough evidence for the District Attorney’s office to move forward with your case.  In a preliminary hearing there are no juries and the prosecution does not need to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt; they only need to prove there is probable cause to prosecute you.
Q
What is a pre-trial conference?
AA pre-trial conference is your next court date after an arraignment (or after the preliminary hearing if applicable.)  Typically this is where we negotiate informally with the prosecution on your behalf.  If we plan to file any motions on your case we will also request a hearing on the motion(s) at this time.
Q
I was offered a plea bargain.  Should I take it?
AMaybe.  This depends on so many factors that it cannot be answered generally.  You need to have a lawyer look at your case and determine your legal defenses and the odds of you winning a jury trial.  Then you have to evaluate the plea offer to see if it fits your needs and expectations of the case.  Whether to take or not take a plea bargain is a big decision.  Advice from a competent lawyer is needed.
Q
Do I need a criminal defense lawyer even if I’ve been falsely accused?  Can’t I just go into court and talk to the prosecutor?
AYOU NEED A LAWYER.  Prosecutors notoriously don’t care what your side of the story is.  I’ve had many clients over the years who were falsely accused.  It happens more often than we’d like to believe.  Prosecutors care about numbers and their conviction rate, unfortunately.  A quality attorney can effectively investigate your case and garner evidence that supports your innocence.  Sometimes, such investigation will convince the prosecution to dismiss.  More often than not, the case will need to go to trial to determine the outcome.
Q
If I am convicted of a misdemeanor or felony crime, will I lose my professional license (for example, a real estate or nurse’s license)?
AWhether you lose your professional license depends on a variety of factors such as the specific crime and the state where your license was issued.  Call us at 619-363-1405 to set up a consultation where we can discuss the specifics of your case.  Even if you don’t hold a professional license, many employers can and will terminate you once they learn of your criminal conviction.
Q
How is a federal crime different from a state crime?
ACriminal law is criminal law, whether state or federal.  However, federal crimes typically carry harsher sentences and unforgiving mandatory minimum sentences.  Also, the rules of procedure differ substantially.  While state court follows the California Penal Code to determine court procedures, federal courts follow the United States Code on procedure.  Having a lawyer who is familiar with federal procedures is of utmost importance when fighting a federal case.
Q
What is the difference between a dismissal and an expungement?
AA dismissal is when you were never convicted of the offense.  This can occur when the judge or prosecutor takes an action resulting in the dismissal of your case.  An expungement is when you are convicted of the offense, via a plea or verdict, and you successfully complete probation.  When that occurs the case is dismissed pursuant to Penal Code 1203.4.
Q
I am a convicted felon.  Is there any chance of getting my gun rights restored?
AIf you were convicted of a wobbler offense (an offense that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony), you can petition the court to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor.  This will take substantial work and requires a written motion to the court.  If you were convicted of a straight felony, you can only get your gun rights restored if you are granted a governor’s pardon, which is rare.  The best way to find out is to call our office and get a free consultation.

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