Welcome to the Frequently Asked Questions area. For your convenience we have separated the questions into the topics described below. We realize that you may need additional information after visiting this area and we invite you to contact our offices for additional information. We have also included in this web site a number of links to law and government related sites for your use.

  • General Information
  • This topic contains general questions about our office, operations and staff as well as information about court procedures and related subjects.
  • Information about Juvenile Cases
    This topic contains information about services we provide in
    cases involving minors. Look here for information about the types of cases
    that we handle and the special procedures that apply to minors and their parents in Juvenile Court.

General Information

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Misdemeanor Cases

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Felony Cases

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Juvenile Cases

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General Information

Who can get advice from the law offices of the public defender?

Attorneys from the Law Offices of the Public Defender are authorized to assist and represent people in certain situations if they are "indigent". That means that we can help you if you lack the current ability to hire an attorney for your particular situation. If you have no income or assets you probably qualify for our assistance. If you have some income or assets, a determination will have to be made to see if you meet the definition of "indigent" in your particular case or situation. If you have any question about whether you qualify for our assistance you should contact us so that we can review your financial status with you.

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In what kinds of cases or situations can a public defender help me?

You may be able to have an attorney from the Law Offices of the Public Defender help if your particular situation is one that the law allows for the appointment of an attorney. The law allows for you to ask for our assistance directly or for the court to appoint us at a formal court proceeding. This usually happens at your first appearance in a case during a proceeding called an arraignment. However, you do not have to wait to go to court to have us help you, you can ask for our assistance at any time by contacting one of our offices before you have to go to court.

The Law Offices of the Public Defender is only authorized to assist you in certain types of cases. The primary situation where a court appoints an attorney from our office is where the law would allow for a person to be placed in custody of some type. Usually that means that a crime is either being investigated or that actual charges have been filed in court which may involve you in some way. In addition to appointment by the court, the law allows our attorneys to help you at your request, even if no formal charges have been filed or reported. That means that if you have concerns about whether a situation may be developing that could result in your being investigated or charged with a crime, you can contact our offices for advice at any time.

A court can also appoint attorneys in cases in which you could be placed into custody such as a civil contempt proceeding. Also, in some instances, courts can appoint attorneys for persons subject to court ordered placements such as guardianships, conservatorships, and other limited proceedings. If you are unsure whether your situation is one of these, you should contact one of our offices and speak to one of our attorneys to better answer this question.

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When should I ask for a public defender?

You should ask for the help of a public defender whenever you feel one can help you. The law allows for us to help you even if you have not yet gone to court and even if no legal process has started. If you feel that there is some need for advice in a situation for which you can seek an appointed attorney, our offices will provide that advice. Do not wait to go to court or for the police or other government officers to come speak to you if you have questions for which you need answers.

If you have been brought to court on a matter, you can and should ask the judge for the appointment of an attorney during your first appearance. If the case is one in which an attorney can be appointed, the judge will take up your request when you make it.

It can also happen that the police may contact you and wish to interview you about a situation. Whenever you are talking to the police you have a number of rights that you may wish to consider before speaking with investigators or police. You should consult some of the legal information resources on this web site for further information. A good rule to follow is to know your rights and exercise them carefully.

The law requires that you be provided an attorney, if you cannot hire one, before and during any questioning and at no expense to you. If you have any concern about talking to the police you can always request time to consult with an attorney before having any conversation with them. You have a right to speak to an attorney. The law requires that you be provided an attorney before and during any questioning at no expense to you if you cannot afford to hire one. You should not give up this right merely because the people questioning you ask you to or because it may take more time to complete the interview.

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If I can't afford a lawyer, will I have to pay for a public defender's help?

In most circumstances you may have to pay something for the assistance of a court appointed attorney. When you are provided services by court appointed attorneys, the government must attempt to collect reimbursement for the reasonable costs of those services. What this generally means is that you may be asked at the end of the case to pay some or all of the costs of providing you with a public defender. You will have a right at that hearing to show that you lack the ability to pay any portion of those costs. If that is true, you would have no obligation to pay anything. However, most people do have some ability to make some payment and the court has the power to order you to pay for some or all of the costs.

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Are all "appointed attorneys" employees of the law offices of the public defender?

No. In some cases the Court will appoint attorneys who are not members of our office. This is generally only done after the Public Defender determines that this office should not participate in your particular case. Usually this is done on the basis of what is known as a "conflict of interest". There are many ways that this can come up, but usually it arises when more than one person who needs the assistance of an attorney is involved in the same situation. An attorney isn't allowed to represent two people who may have conflicting interests in a situation. For this reason the court appoints separate lawyers from different offices. In the County of Riverside, the Courts and the County have contracted with a number of lawyers that are appointed when the Public Defender cannot assist you. Those attorneys are the ones the courts generally appoint if the Law Offices of the Public Defender cannot participate in your particular case.

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Are public defenders real attorneys?

Yes. All of our attorneys are fully certified members of the State Bar of California. All of them have chosen the cases and people that we represent as their career.

Since the great majority of our cases are criminal in nature, our hiring and recruiting process has been aimed at selecting attorneys who are committed to specializing in the area of criminal defense work. Since we also work in other areas of legal representation, our attorneys are also trained in those areas of specialty in which we operate.

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Will the public defender represent me if I am a resident of another county, state or country?

Yes. If your case happened in the County of Riverside, then you can request assistance from our office in state court cases. Federal cases or investigations would have to be handled through other agencies. The Law Offices of the Public Defender also represents clients who are residents of this state in extradition proceedings from other states. Your residency, citizenship status, or the type of proceeding you are involved in may raise issues unique to your case and should be discussed with the attorney who is assigned to represent you.

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If my ability to speak, read or understand English is limited can you still help me?

Yes. You are entitled to the full assistance of an attorney. This means that you will need to be able to communicate fully with that attorney at all times. For this reason we can help you obtain the services of an interpreter in your native language if necessary. You should never attempt to rely on a language that doesn't give you full understanding of what is happening in your case. If you have any language problem, please make sure to tell the attorney that is assisting you that you need this special help. For the hearing impaired, augmented services including sign language interpretation can also be obtained to assist you.

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What type of support staff does the public defender employ in the defense of its clients?

The Law Offices of the Public Defender for the County of Riverside employs a full set of support personnel. These include professional investigators, paralegals, and clerical personnel. In addition to these, we routinely hire additional support such as experts and specialists in cases where they are necessary.

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What happens to the information I give the public defender's office?

All information which you give to our staff while you are our client is completely confidential. When you speak to one of our attorneys, investigators, paralegals or any other staff member you are fully protected by the attorney-client relationship and only under very extreme circumstances can we give out any information you give us. In most circumstances we can never release any information you give us unless you consent specifically to its release.

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How does a criminal case get started?

Usually a case starts with the police taking an initial report from some one. They then conduct an investigation and usually turn their information over to the Office of the District Attorney or other similar prosecutorial agency. Staff at that office will review the information to determine if a case should be filed and what charges should be included. Once that determination is made a formal paper is filed with the courts to start the case.

If the situation that started this process was serious, the police may have already arrested someone and are holding that person in custody. If that is true, this process must go very quickly and the law generally requires that you be brought to court within 48 hours of your arrest. This 48 hour time period is somewhat longer where week ends or court holidays are counted. It can actually occur that someone is not taken to court following arrest for up to 5 calendar days.

If the person was not arrested, or if the person arrested was allowed to post bail or a bond, then this process may be delayed by the arresting agency or the prosecuting agency for some relatively short period of time. However, once an arrest has occurred, the state does have an obligation to charge you within certain time limits. This does not mean that you should wait to see if you are going to be charged with a crime before getting the help of an attorney. In most circumstances you may hurt your position by waiting. Even in this early stage of a case, there are a number of things an attorney can do to help protect you.

Whenever your case first comes to court, the first thing a court is required to do is to arraign you on the charges you are facing. This process requires that you be told about the charges that you are facing, that you be asked whether you wish to be represented by an attorney and that you then enter a plea to the charges. You can choose to delay the entry of your plea under most circumstances but the arraignment is not complete until you enter your plea. The proceedings that occur after the arraignment will depend on the nature of the charges against you.

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What's going to happen to me in court?

This depends on the type of case or situation that we are helping you with. Since the bulk of our cases relate to someone being investigated for or charged with a crime, that will be discussed most fully here. If you have a question about another type of case, you should contact our offices and discuss your questions with attorneys who handle your type of situation.

Criminal cases come to court a number of ways depending on the nature of the charges and the age of the person to be charged. For most charges where the person is under the age of 18, those cases start and end in Juvenile Court. In rare cases a person under the age of 18 may be tried as an adult if the charge is very serious. For persons over the age of 18, the following information may be helpful. If you have any questions that are not answered here, please contact one of our offices so that we can more fully answer your questions.

The first appearance you make in a criminal case is called an arraignment. This is the time for you to be given a copy of the charges against you and to decide whether you want to have an attorney assist you if you have not already consulted one. It is also the time that a judge will ask you " How do you plead?" Before you enter any plea you should decide whether you want the assistance of an attorney. The law also requires that you be advised of your rights in these proceedings and that you be told the full consequences of entering a plea. If you wish to have the court appoint an attorney to help you or advise you, this is the usually the first and best time to make the request. If you have already asked for the assistance of the Law Offices of the Public Defender we will have one of our attorneys with you at this hearing.

If you are in custody at this first hearing, this proceeding is also a time in which the judge can consider bail issues or your release during your case. Usually by the time that your case comes into court, it has already been reviewed by a bail officer and judge and a specific bail amount has been set according to what is known as the Bail Schedule. At the arraignment a judge can consider whether to increase or decrease that setting. Your bail can go up or down at the arraignment depending on what charges are filed and what can be shown about your background and history in this community and elsewhere. Once the amount is set you may post bail in cash or by the use of a bail bond. You or your family may also put up property as bail. Once you have posted bail you will be released during the rest of your court proceedings. If you cannot post bail, you will remain in custody until the case is completed.

The Arraignment is also a time to discuss possible settlement of your case in many circumstances. In most locations our attorneys in court will be able to review police reports about your case and to discuss the facts and circumstances of the situation with you. If the reports are not available or if additional information is necessary to best assist you, the arraignment may need to be continued to gather that information.

What happens after the arraignment depends on some of the choices you make at that stage and what kind of case you have. Criminal charges are either misdemeanors or felonies. Each type of case follows a particular path. These will be discussed below.

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Someone called the police about me and now they want to drop the charges, why are the police and the prosecutor charging me?

The decision of whether to file charges and how to prosecute those charges is not in the hands of any citizen. The power to charge criminal cases is in the government's control through their prosecuting agency. Once a person makes a complaint or starts an inquiry, that person does not control the process, although they may still give input to the prosecutor and the court as the case proceeds.

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Misdemeanor Information

What happens in a misdemeanor case?

A case that has misdemanor charges follows certain rules. A person charged with misdemanors has a right to a jury trial. Misdemeanor charges are generally lesser offenses that carry no more than one year in a county jail facility. Simple thefts, simple assault, battery, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are examples of misdemeanor charges.

Once a misdemeanor case has been filed the person charged will be arraigned first. This is the first hearing in court. If you have been arrested and are in custody at the time of your arraignment, you have a right to start your trial within 30 days of your arraignment. If you are not in custody on your case, you have a right to start your trial within 45 days of arraignment.

At the time of arraignment you may make a request for the appointment of an attorney if you cannot afford to hire one of your own choosing. An attorney may be provided at that hearing or you may be referred by the court to our offices for additional assistance on your case. Usually the case will be set for trial and/or a "pre-trial conference" during this first appearance.

The "pretrial conference" is scheduled to check on the status of the case and to determine if the case is going to go to trial or to be resolved or dismissed without trial. Your presence at that hearing is required in almost all cases. This is because you will have to make certain decisions about your case that the attorney can't make on your behalf. Between the arraignment and the pretrial conference, you will need to keep in direct contact with your attorney and assist him (or her) with your case.

At the pretrial conference you will decide with your attorney whether your case will proceed to trial. If you decide to take your case to trial, the case will be set for either the original trial date or another date that you, your attorney and the court decide upon.

Once the case is set for trial after the pretrial conference, your case will be heard by a judge who has several probably has other cases waiting for trial. This can cause a problem for you because even though your case is set for a particular day, it may not really start that day. The court will generally have some ability to delay your case for some small time period to wait for a courtroom to open up to hear your case. This generally does not exceed 10 to 15 court working days. During that time you will have to be available to start the case. If you have an attorney to assist you, he may be able to arrange to appear without you being present during these days. However, you will need to make sure that you can be easily reached when the trial is going to start, since it is rarely good for your side of a case if you are not there. Once the trial starts, your case will be heard continuously until completed and a verdict rendered. The details of all of the proceedings that occur in a trial cannot be contained here, so any questions you may have about those proceedings should be left for an office discussion.

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What will happen at trial?

What can happen at trial is another subject that has so many twists that the question can't be fully answered here. However, here are some of the basics.

The process of a trial depends upon whether the matter is decided by a judge or a jury. Most criminal trials are decided by a jury rather than a judge, so that process will be described here. The first stage of the trial will be to resolve issues that are decided by the judge rather than the jury. These include pretrial issues such as limits on what evidence can be offered and how some evidence can be presented.

Then a jury is selected. This is done by questioning jurors orally or in writing about their background and their suitability and fairness to hear a particular case. During that process each side can excuse jurors for "cause" if they can show there is a reason to believe that a juror could not follow the law or be fair in a particular case. Each side can excuse for any reason a certain number of jurors depending on the type of case. This is called a "peremptory" challenge. Once each side accepts the jury panel, or both sides run out of challenges, the jury will be sworn and the trial begins.

In a criminal case, the prosecution has the burden of proving the truth of the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. For this reason the prosecution is allowed to present their side of the case first. The prosecution gets to make its opening statement to the jury first. Then the defense can choose to make an opening statement at that time or save it for later in the case. Next the district attorney will call their witnesses and produce their evidence. During this presentation your attorney will be allowed to question the prosecution witnesses in a manner known as cross-examination. Whenever a witness is called by a side in a case, the opponent gets an opportunity to cross-examine that witness. Once the prosecution presents all the witnesses they wish, they "rest" their case. At that time you and your attorney can decide on a number of options including presenting any evidence, presenting your testimony or doing nothing.

If you present any witnesses or testify yourself, those witnesses or you will be subject to cross-examination by the prosecution attorney. Once the defense has called all of its witnesses and presented all the evidence they will "rest". The prosecution then gets the opportunity to present "rebuttal" evidence. If that happens, the defense is allowed to add "surrebuttal" evidence to contest the prosecution's "rebuttal" evidence. This sequence continues until both sides decide to produce no additional evidence. At this point the case is closed to evidence and the next step is to decide what jury instructions will be given to the jury.

Jury instructions are written documents used to orally tell the jury what the rules of the case are. This is where the jurors are told all of the rules needed to properly decide the case. After those instructions have been decided upon, each side will get to make their summation or final argument to the jury. Once again the prosecution goes first. Then, your attorney gets to make his or her argument to the jury. Because the prosecution has the burden of proof, it is allowed a second argument after your attorney is finished. Following this rebuttal argument , the judge instructs the jury and they are then placed under the control of the bailiff and taken to the jury room where they make their decision.

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Felony Cases

What is a felony? How serious is one?

Felonies are the most serious criminal cases. A case is a felony if the punishment can include state prison. This differs from a misdemeanor (or less serious) case, in which the punishment is, at most, a year in county jail.

Felony charges range from drug, burglary and car theft cases, up to rape, arson and murder. Although some felonies are punishable by life in prison, most cases have fixed sentences. Just because someone is charged with a felony does not necessarily mean he or she will be sent to state prison. The possible penalties depend on the charges and facts of your case, and should be discussed with your lawyer. The law of sentencing in felony cases is very complex and has been growing more difficult each year.

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How does a felony case get started?

A felony case usually results because the District Attorney's Office has filed a complaint, or formal charges. Much less often, a felony case can result after the county Grand Jury holds a hearing and then files a document called an "Indictment". If you get a notice to appear before a Grand Jury, you have certain rights that you may wish to consider before appearing before them. If you have questions about those rights you may seek answers from an attorney you hire or, if you think you are "indigent" you may call the Law Offices of the Public Defender and ask for our assistance before appearing.

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How do I find out that a felony charge has been placed against me?

If have already been arrested the police may have given you some paperwork telling you what the arresting agency thinks the charges may be. However, the District Attorney actually decides what to charge in court. This is done by filing the charges in a formal document called a "Complaint". That document tells you what charges have actually been filed against you. As mentioned above, an Indictment can also charge you with a felony so that type of document will also show your charges.

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After I've been charged with a felony in a complaint, what happens next?

After a felony charge has been filed you should get a notice to appear in court for an arraignment if you are not in custody. You must personally be present at the arraignment. At that time, the judge will tell you your rights and the charges against you. Bail also may be set. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court must appoint one at your request. Also at the arraignment, the judge will ask you to enter a plea of Guilty or Not Guilty to the charges. Almost always, your lawyer (or you) will plead "not guilty." A second court date - usually a Preliminary Hearing -- will then be set. By law, a Preliminary Hearing must be held within 10 court days from the date you are arraigned or you enter a plea, whichever occurs later. The hearing is held unless you and your lawyer agree to a court date more than 10 court days later.

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What should I do before the preliminary hearing?

After the Arraignment, you should contact your lawyer before the next court date to discuss your case, possible penalties and any defenses you may have. You might also discuss whether to settle your case before the Preliminary Hearing. You should consider all possibilities and advice at this point. You should also work with your attorney to develop any information or evidence that would help you in deciding your case. This includes further investigation, interviewing witnesses and other pretrial activities.

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What is a preliminary hearing?

A preliminary hearing or preliminary examination is known as a probable cause hearing. It is not a trial. Before you can be made to stand trial on a felony, the prosecution must show that there is a rational basis for the charge against you. The government must produce evidence that convinces a judge that there is a some reason to believe that the crime has been committed and that you are liable for the act or acts charged. Only a minimal showing is needed for this hearing. Not all of the rules of evidence apply to these hearings and in some instances the actual witnesses do not have to "testify" in person.

The defense has an opportunity to produce evidence at this hearing but this is rarely done since the prosecution must present so little evidence. The defense does, however, have the right to cross-examine any witnesses called by the prosecution. Another thing that may happen during the preliminary hearing process is that your lawyer may make certain motions on your behalf. Your attorney can assist you in asking the court to reduce your bail or release you on your own recognizance if the facts warrant it. An attorney can also ask the court to reduce certain types of charges from felony to misdemeanor status.

If the judge concludes that enough evidence was presented to convince him or her that there is a rational suspicion that the crime occurred and that the person charged is liable for it, he will " hold you to answer" to the charges in Superior Court.

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What happens after the preliminary hearing?

If you have been "held to answer" your next court appearance will be an arraignment on a formal accusation called an "Information". This next appearance must be set no more than 15 days from the preliminary hearing. The reason for this delay is to give the prosecution a chance to review its case again and decide what charges they should file. Also during this time, your attorney can decide whether to provide the prosecution with any other information that might influence their decision. The District Attorney can decide to file the original charges, no charges at all or new charges not filed originally but which were shown by the evidence at the preliminary hearing.

This next proceeding is called an arraignment and you must be given a copy of the Information. This is again the time for you and your attorney to decide what plea to enter to the final charges filed by the District Attorney. If you enter a plea of not guilty your matter will be set for trial.

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How long does it take to have a trial after arraignment on the information or indictment?

Trials of felony charges must start within 60 calendar days of the arraignment on the "Information" or "Indictment" unless you and your attorney agree to a longer time period. This 60 day time limit is part of your "speedy trial" right. However, this 60 day limit can be extended in a number of ways under the law. There are many reasons why cases are sometimes delayed past this limit. One example may be that a particular case is complicated or that witnesses might not be available at the right time. Under these circumstances you may wish to agree to a more convenient date.

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What happens after the felony case is set for trial?

Both the prosecution and the defense may bring a number of pretrial motions. Each side will investigate and prepare its sides of the case. Each case will have it's own activities and the possibilities are too many to discuss at this site. However, there are some things you can do to help your case.

You should meet early and often with your attorney and assist him or her in preparing your case. Make sure your attorney or his investigator can contact you. If you move, change address or telephone number, make sure that your attorney knows of these changes.

Make sure you know what your court dates and obligations are! If you have a problem with an appearance date, make sure you inform your attorney as soon as possible. If you are going to be late, always notify the court and your attorney's office that you will be late and advise them when you will arrive. Tell your attorney the reasons for your late arrival so that he or she can help you decide whether any additional explanation or information may be necessary for the court.

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Juvenile Cases

How do the courts handle people under the age of 18?

A person is a minor if he or she is under the age of 18 years. A minor can be brought before the court in a number of ways. First there can be a charge of a crime lodged against a minor. This is sometimes called a juvenile delinquency proceeding. Secondly, a minor can be brought to court for truancy. The Law Offices of the Public Defender routinely assists minors in both these situations.

Another way that a minor can come before the court is in a Juvenile Dependency case. This arises when a person or a governmental agency begins a court case charging that the minor is in danger. A formal document charging that the minor should be made a "Dependent" of the Court is filed to start this kind of case. In those cases a minor can also get the assistance of an attorney by asking the court for one. The Superior Court for the County of Riverside has contracted with attorneys other than those in our office to provide attorneys in these cases. Parents of the minor are also parties in these cases and can also seek assistance of an appointed attorney in this process.

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Who has a right to an attorney in a juvenile case ? Who pays for a minor's attorney?

In a juvenile delinquency case, the minor has a right to an attorney. If the minor's parents cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the court must appoint an attorney to represent the minor unless the minor knowingly and intelligently gives up his or her right to counsel. Depending on their income, parents may be subject to a claim of reimbursement from the county for some or all of the legal services provided to the child.

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When the court appoints an attorney for the minor, who does that attorney represent?

When counsel is appointed for the minor, that attorney represents the minor, not the parent(s) or the family. While the attorneys will frequently discuss the case with the parents (with the client's consent), the attorneys are acting on behalf of the minor and will not necessarily follow the course chosen by the parent(s). Also attorney-client discussions are confidential and the parents may be excluded from such discussions at the attorney's discretion.

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What happens first in a juvenile criminal matter?

The manner in which an individual is dealt with by the juvenile justice system depends upon the individual, his/her prior contacts with the system, and the seriousness of the offense. If an individual is arrested, they can be released to the parents or guardian on a citation or transported to the juvenile hall. If the minor is held in custody he is said to be "detained".

If arrested and detained, the minor will meet with a probation officer who will determine whether to keep that minor in custody until their court date, release the individual without requesting the District Attorney's Office to file a petition, permit the minor to go home and request the District Attorney's Office to file a petition, or to detain the minor in Juvenile Hall until their next court date.

If the probation officer decides to keep the minor in custody a petition will usually be filed within 48 hours of their arrest. Once the petition is filed, the first court appearance will be scheduled for the next court day. This does not include weekends or court holidays. That first appearance will be the Detention Hearing. The Detention Hearing is like the Arraignment in the adult court. The minor is advised of the charges, counsel is appointed to represent that individual unless the family has hired their own lawyer. This all happens at the first hearing.

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What is informal probation?

The law allows for a probation officer to decide not to file a formal petition and proceed informally with a plan of supervision for a minor for a period of no more than six months. Even if a formal petition has been filed, the court can return the matter to the probation department for informal probation and discharge the formal petition. In this process a minor may be required to do certain things within the six month term such as community service, counseling or special areas of education. If the minor completes the requirements, the matter is closed without further activity.

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What happens after the detention hearing?

During the Detention Hearing you will be given instructions about what the next step is in your particular case. If the matter is set for a further hearing you will need to meet with one or more of our office staff if we have been appointed for you. If the minor is released from custody before any court appearance, he/she will be notified of the court date by mail. Once you receive notice of your court date you should contact the Juvenile Office of our department so that we can begin the investigation process.

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What happens during the investigation process?

An attorney or an investigator from the Law Offices of the Public Defender will gather information before the court date and will interview the minor. If you have any information or are aware of any witnesses, advise the attorney or investigator when you make the appointment for the interview. Bring with you any contact information for the witnesses or bring them with you to be interviewed. However, in order to prevent the possible contamination of witnesses and to protect your own rights, you should not discuss the case, your involvement, or any of the facts with anyone other than members of our office.

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What kind of trial does a minor get?

In juvenile delinquency cases, there is no right to a jury trial. The judge sitting alone hears and decides the case in a juvenile court proceeding. This is called a Contested Jurisdictional Hearing. This hearing is commonly referred to as a "Contest" in Juvenile Court. It means essentially the same as the "court trial" in adult court.

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When are motions heard in juvenile court?

If there are any special motions to be heard before the trial, they will be set for a hearing before the trial date. Both Motions and Trials are set in the afternoons, Monday through Thursday starting at 1:30 p.m.

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What happens at the contested jurisdictional hearing?

This hearing proceeds like any other criminal court trial but under the rules of Juvenile Court. There are some differences from adult court, but generally the process is the same as adult court. The prosecution has the burden of proving that the charges in the petition are true beyond a reasonable doubt. They will attempt to do this just like in adult court, by calling witnesses and producing admissible evidence in court. The minor and his attorney also have the ability to produce witnesses and evidence in court and the minor and/or parents may also testify. If the prosecution does not prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, then it is found to be not true. If no charges are found true then the minor is released from the juvenile process and the case is over. If any of the charges are found true the court can either proceed to "Disposition" quickly or refer the matter back to the probation department for a detailed report of alternatives. This process is similar to the sentencing proceedings in adult cases. However, the rules of sentencing and the purposes of sentencing are different than adult court.

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What happens before the "disposition" hearing?

The probation officer will interview you, the victim(s), your parents and anyone else involved in your case. This information will be included in a report to the judge, which will include a recommendation as to what the consequence to you should be. You and your attorney will be given a copy of this report and recommendation and will be able to review it before the actual hearing.

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What can happen at the "disposition" hearing?

The court could declare you a ward of the court. You could be placed on probation, be ordered to attend counseling, classes, perform community service or custody time in juvenile hall or other facilities as well as placement outside the home, which could include a group home or a private or county/state facility. The worst that could happen is you could be ordered confined to the California Youth Authority (CYA). This particular result would depend on the juvenile court history, background and family situation of the minor and seriousness of the case. The length of time for probation is usually up until your 18th birthday, but it can actually be longer in some instances.

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I've heard that sometimes juveniles are taken to adult court, how does that happen?

In certain circumstances, the District Attorney's Office may seek to have an individual minor tried as an adult. This will usually occur only in serious cases or for repeat offenders. Under recent changes in the law this can happen more easily than before. If you are tried in adult court, almost all of the adult consequences can be applied to you even if you were under the age of 18 when the offense occurred. The issues that surround this question are too complicated for a web site and it is our suggestion that you contact our Juvenile Office or our main office in Riverside to seek answers to any additional questions you may have.

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I am a parent, do I have to pay for anything if my child is involved in juvenile court?

Parents may be required to pay for a number of services. Below is a list of some things that may be charged to the parents. A parent may be required to reimburse the county for all or part the following costs if they have an ability to pay them:

  • The cost of informal probation services
  • The costs of detention before and after a finding
  • The cost of out-of-home placements and county camps
  • The cost of the minor's legal services
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    Riverside, CA 92501
    Office: (951) 955-6000
    Fax: (951) 955-6025

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