THE CRIMINAL CASE:
A Felony offense is any crime that can carry a State Prison sentence or a "County Jail" Prison sentence. Prison sentences can be either "Determinate" sentences or "Indeterminate" sentences. Examples of an Indeterminate Felony sentence would be for crimes such as Murder, Attempted Murder or "3 Strikes" violations which can carry sentences such as Life Without Parole, 25 years-to-Life, or 15 years-to-Life. A Determinate sentence is a sentence where a Judge is limited to imposing a specific number of years or months in a State or County Jail facility unless circumstances justify a Probationary Sentence. A typical low-level Felony Prison sentence would be 16 months as a mitigated (low) term, 2 years as a presumptive (middle) term, and 3 years as an aggravated (high) term. Obviously, as Felony charges get more serious, the Determinate sentencing range tends to be higher and there are crimes that are 2/3/4 year crimes, 3/4/5 year crimes, 3/5/7 year crimes, 3/6/8 year crimes and so on. Because of other factors such as the possibility of consecutive (one added after the other) sentences and a number of legal limitations on running State Prison sentences consecutively, it is truly necessary to consult with an attorney to determine what the maximum possible sentence would be under a specific set of facts.
For all Determinate sentences, state law allows inmates to earn early release from their State or County Jail Prison sentences due to things such as a good disciplinary record and working while in custody. How much of a sentence an inmate must serve is determined by where the jail time has been served and by whether the inmate’s prior record or current offense qualify as "Strike" offenses. Speaking with a knowledgeable attorney can help you determine exactly what "Good Time/Work Time" credits will do to the sentence but, the basic scheme is:
For most Felony offenses, it is possible to obtain a Probationary sentence or a "split" sentence that involves Mandatory Supervision that is similar to Probation. When a defendant is given a Felony sentence that involves Probation, that defendant will almost always be placed on Formal/Supervised Probation. Formal Probation normally carries with it numerous obligations that can range from fairly easy to follow (i.e. violate no law, disclose probation status to police officer, etc...) to rather constraining obligations such as:
...and the list can go on and on...
The point of accepting Probation is that it avoids a State or "County Jail" Prison sentence. However, when a person is sentenced to Probation for a Felony charge, it does not mean that the person will not get any jail time and, in fact, ANY Felony conviction will most likely involve some amount of jail time. The maximum amount of County or City jail time that a person can be sentenced to for a single Felony charge is 365 days in jail. Obviously, nobody wants to do any jail time although both you and your lawyer should be talking about a myriad of issues regarding both the future problems that your case can cause for you as well as the current problem of jail and State Prison sentences. One issue that must be discussed is the potential State Prison sentences that could be imposed in the event that a defendant fails to successfully complete Probation.
Thankfully for most of us, significantly more cases qualify for treatment as a Misdemeanor rather than for Felony consequences. A Misdemeanor is a charge that can carry jail time up to a year in jail and a fine of (usually) up to $1,000. Although jail time should be a more significant concern than fines for most people, do keep in mind that once penalty assessments and other various court fees are added in, the total fine/fee for a single "$1,000" Misdemeanor charge can actually add up to over $4,000.
Usually, when a person is sentenced for a Misdemeanor conviction, the court requires (as a condition of staying out of jail up front) that the person be on an "Informal" or "Summary" grant of Probation which some courts more accurately call "Conditional Revocable Release." The Informal Probation period can be for up to 5 years but, because judges and prosecutors tend to be creatures of habit and think in round numbers, it is a good idea to be prepared for a 3 year Informal Probation period.
Regarding Misdemeanor jail time and other punishment, many courts can be convinced to think, not necessarily "outside of the box" but, at least in a more flexible way. It is possible to convince judges and prosecutors to convert normal County jail sentences to alternatives such as:
Realize also that some Misdemeanor charges require additional mandatory (unless the case is plea bargained down to a lesser charge) penalties. Most of these mandatory terms are specific to the type of conviction and examples would include alcohol treatment, anger management treatment, drug treatment and firearm prohibitions. Most treatment programs are paid for by the defendant and both the cost and the hassle involved in attending these court-ordered programs can be significant.
An Infraction is a criminal charge that cannot carry jail time but, can only carry a fine. The penalty assessment and fee structure that applies to Infractions is the same as for other cases and, as a result, it is possible for Infraction fines and fees to run into the thousands of dollars.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (DUI):
DMV LICENSE SUSPENSIONS:
***YOU ONLY HAVE 10 DAYS TO CONTACT THE DMV DRIVER’S SAFETY OFFICE TO CHALLENGE THE ADMINISTRATIVE SUSPENSION OF YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE***
When the police officer confiscated your Driver’s License after your arrest for Driving Under the Influence, he set in motion a suspension that will be automatic if you do not do anything to challenge it. The suspension will go into effect 30 days from the date you were given a "Notice of Suspension" by the officer or 14 days after you were mailed a similar notice from DMV headquarters in Sacramento. The length of the suspension can vary depending on a number of factors. If a suspension does go into effect, a knowledgeable lawyer can guide you through the correct process to regain your driving privilege as quickly as is possible. (***NOTE: In/Out of State Residency, Probationary Status, Prior Offenses, Alcohol Level and Age are factors that affect the requirements to obtain a full or restricted license)
If you want to have any chance at all of successfully challenging this "Administrative" suspension, you should seriouly consider contacting a lawyer that very heavily emphasizes DUI/DMV defense in their practice. If you contact me, I can either set up this DMV hearing for you or advise you on how to "get your foot in the door" by initially setting up the hearing yourself so that you do have adequate time to hire the lawyer of your choice.
DEFENDING A DUI CHARGE:
Although Driving Under the Influence charges are certainly not the most serious criminal offenses, it is certainly accurate to say that appropriately defending an accused DUI driver in Trial can be far more complicated than defending many of the major felony offenses!
In a Jury Trial, your defense counsel must have a thorough understanding of the myriad of scientific, sociological and legal issues that can present themselves during the course of a DUI Trial. He or she has to be able to effectively cross-examine police officers and criminalists in a way that is both understandable to normal people (i.e. those who show up for jury duty) and, at the same time, the questioning has to be done in a way that does not offend the jurors. Outside of court, we might not hold back in telling others just what we think about a cop’s credibility but, in a Jury Trial setting, the delicate dance that is required to show a juror that the government witnesses (whom jurors all want to believe) are deliberately attempting to mislead the jurors (i.e. lying to get a conviction) is undoubtedly the most difficult task that your lawyer must accomplish. And in a DUI trial, the government’s case is ALL about misleading the jury...and I am being deadly serious on this point.
SCIENCE VS. EMOTION:
So, how is it that the prosecutor, police officer and criminalist are attempting to mislead the jury? Here are just a few things that we all need to be aware of:
BUT MY CASE WON’T GO TO A JURY TRIAL:
So, you are thinking that your case is not going to go to Trial...right? And, that is probably true. But, you have to remember that the way that cases settle is highly dependent on how they would work out if they actually went before a Jury. This is why Jury Trial experience is so important to a good lawyer. Every case that a Criminal Defense attorney deals with goes to Trial every time that he or she reviews the police reports, audio/video evidence, and testing data.
When you hire a lawyer that prosecutors recognize as experienced and knowledgeable, you are forcing the prosecutor to consider reducing settlement offers because your case is now more likely to have a positive outcome if and when it goes before that Jury.
AN EASILY MADE ACCUSATION:
False allegations of Domestic Violence are running rampant in our society. Like allegations of Child Abuse, Domestic Violence claims are frequently used by a spouse that is planning on leaving a relationship as a tool to gain leverage in disputes over both child custody and living accomodations. Even where there is some basis for the allegations, the reporting party (a.k.a. "Victim") will almost invariably fail to accurately report their own acts. Police agencies have aggravated the problem by convincing officers that they are "required" to arrest someone during any Domestic Violence call that is in any way substantiated.
THE PENDULUM HAS SWUNG TOO FAR:
Although there was certainly a point in history where both the courts and law enforcement ignored the problems that were caused by abusive relationships, the current attempts to be "politically correct" by blindly accepting the words of the "victim" and punishing anyone who has been reported to law enforcement do not do anything to make up for the lack of support for real victims in the past. Anyone who is facing allegations of Domestic Violence in either a Criminal case or in a Restraining/Move-Out order should realize that you can only count on obtaining fair treatment by the courts if you do everything in your power to make the courts treat you fairly. I routinely speak with potential clients who incorrectly assume that both judges and prosecutors will, by some miracle, come to a realization that the "victim" has drug/alcohol/mental problems that make the "victim" an untrustworthy person when, in reality, convincing the courts that your former partner lied to the police is an "uphill battle" that requires unbelievable amounts of corroboration from independent parties before it is even taken seriously.
YOUR DEFENSE NEEDS TO BE COORDINATED:
Whether the "victim" in your case is now "for you" or "against you," it is very important to begin to coordinate the proper defense of your case through an attorney who has a clear understanding of exactly how to ultimately present your defense in the best way possible. I cannot think of a better way to ensure that you will get a conviction than by having your "victim" contact either police or prosecutors and making a completely unguided attempt to talk them out of filing a case against you. When a "victim" contacts police and prosecutors, you can count on having these government workers manipulate every single statement made by that "victim" and then twist these statements into something that can be used to convict you in court.
As I have been handling these matters since the inception of my legal career, I am crystal clear as to exactly what needs to be done to successfully defend a client on a Domestic Violence case. How we will proceed is highly dependant on what evidence that the police already have and, for that reason, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney immediately so that your lawyer can control the damage that will otherwise occur.
DEPRESSION AND THEFT:
Typically, I have found that theft offenses go hand-in-hand with other underlying problems in my clients. In the challenging economic times that we are all living in, depression, substance abuse and anger issues seem to be affecting a large percentage of the population. For most people, being arrested for theft brings about a further plunge into the depressed thoughts that caused the conduct in the first place.
Although I am not a therapist, the connection that I have seen between theft arrests and underlying emotional and psychological issues has been difficult to ignore. Because I look at myself as being hired to actually help my clients (which can go beyond just the immediate court problem), I normally encourage clients to, at a minimum, use their court experience as an opportunity to engage in a bit of self-reflection. If what landed you in court does have an underlying cause that can be dealt with, this is an angle that I push with judges and prosecutors because I believe that dealing with your issues now will help you to keep yourself from repeating the same mistakes tomorrow.
For every case, a good Criminal Defense Attorney emphasizes the most compelling details of your defense with the goal of minimizing the impact of the charge on your life.
Overzealous loss-prevention and/or security personnel in retail stores may greatly embellish and exaggerate the details of your arrest. Being arrested because a friend decided to do something stupid and you were with him/her is not unusual. Police officers are trained in how to grill people to say what they want to hear...sometimes it is the truth and sometimes it results in a false confession. I recognize that there are many ways that the evidence can make a person look guilty on the surface. Your lawyer should always be looking for ways that the evidence can be interpreted in a way that shows that you did not actually commit a crime. Your lawyer should not be accepting the conclusions that the prosecution witnesses came to just as he or she should not be accepting that the witnesses were accurate in what they said that they actually saw. I always get copies of all audio and video recordings of any investigation and arrest as well as any other actual evidence that can be obtained. It is only after a thorough review of all information that you can be adequately defended.
Whether your case involves allegations of Theft, Burglary, Embezzlement or of Check or Credit Card Fraud, know that I have effectively dealt with a variety of Theft offenses for my clients over the years and I do believe that I have a good track record of keeping my client’s problems under control and of keeping the impact on their record as well as the actual punishment to a bare minimum.
ASSAULT/BATTERY/WEAPONS & NUISSANCE CHARGES:
Many people get caught up in incidents involving bars, drinking and fighting. Although these are a common occurrence, they still tend to be blown out of proportion when the cases are brought to a court’s attention. Whether you were contacted simply being Intoxicated in Public or if your matter involved a fight or weapon, you need to realize that these matters will have a significant impact on your record and on your life in general if you do not take the charges seriously. The potential problems will obviously increase as the weapons or injuries are more serious but, under any circumstance, walking into court and convincing yourself that you do not need to prepare to defend yourself is an unwise choice.
Of course, having an experienced and aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney on your side can completely change the entire direction that your case is headed in and this is particularly true when the offense is not an offense with political elements such as DUI or Domestic Violence. On a practical level, people in the courts do not over-react when they read a report of two males fighting in the same way that they (in my opinion) frequently over-react in other charges.
I have developed a reputation with prosecutors and judges as an aggressive defender of my clients whether the matter is a serious offense or a more minor violation. When you hire me to defend you on your criminal matter, the prosecutor will realize that they will not have the option of taking advantage of you. There are a variety of options that may help to settle your minor Misdemeanor charge that are not as likely to be available on other matters. I have had cases dismissed over the years by having my clients, for example:
I have a very good track record of settling assault, battery, minor weapons charges as well as other minor Misdemeanor charges with a minimal impact on my clients’ records and with an equally minimal effect on their time and lives. Call or text me at 714-765-9990 to set up an office appointment so that you can see whether I am the lawyer that you want helping you out of your legal problem.
CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE OFFENSES:
REHABILITATION VS. INCARCERATION:
There are several problems that occur over and over again in Drug cases. As a nation, we have been brainwashed into believing that drugs that do not come from a pharmaceutical corporation are intrinsically bad and that incarceration is compatible with the "freedom" we want as U.S. citizens while allowing others to engage in "self-determination" is incompatible. Those who make their living off of prescription drugs and imprisonment have shaped a world that serves their economic interests and politicians have been more than willing to push the "Drugs are a Crime" philosophy.
The reality is that almost all drugs have some effects that are good and some effects that are bad. By ignoring any positive uses and adopting the inflexible philosophical position that all currently illegal drugs are inherently bad, our society has gotten itself to the point that we currently have more of our neighbors and friends in jail or prison, both per capita and in total numbers, than any nation on Earth or in history.
DRUGS AS A POLITICAL ISSUE:
On a practical level, the main problem that Criminal Defense Attorneys have to deal with is the general lack of acceptance in most courts of the concept of Rehabilitation/Drug Treatment. Simply put, the overwhelming majority of both judges and prosecutors take the position that Drug Treatment programs are a waste of time, effort and resources. Whether those in the system have become jaded and given up out of continued frustration, made honest well thought out decisions or simply taken political positions that are designed to be palatable to voters and bosses, overcoming the bias against Drug Treatment is an uphill battle. Because of this, Drug Treatment programs that a reasonable person would think would be the main focus of a Drug prosecution are truly in disfavor. In an effort that sometimes seems calculated to disrupt the latest Voter passed initiatives, prosecutors will oftentimes push the limits and charge defendants with being involved in selling the drugs as a way to prevent people from being eligible for Drug Treatment programs that prosecutors see as too lenient.
As a result of all of this, I frequently find that many drug charges are the result of being "in the wrong place at the wrong time" as people end up being charged with possessing drugs that belonged to a companion or with sales-related offenses simply because they possess larger quantities, have money on them or have purchased scales so that they do not get cheated by actual drug dealers. My goal as an attorney is to, first, get people out of trouble that they do not truly deserve and, second, to confront prosecutors and judges with the unbelievable possibility that......my client may just not be Public Enemy # 1! For clients that do actually need the structure of a formal Rehab program, I am extraordinarily happy to help to push the court into helping them with their problem. Other clients do not have, in my opinion, significant problems even when they have, in fact, been arrested on drug charges. For those clients, my focus is on making their experience with the court as easy and painless as is possible.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA---PROP 215 (COMPASSIONATE USE ACT) & SB420 (MMPA) DEFENSES:
In my opinion, the current push by prosecutors to convict growers, suppliers and distributors of Medical Marijuana is the most clear example of a government running on "autopilot" out of touch with the will of the People that exists today. Cultivation and distribution of Marijuana is absolutely legal under California Law as long as it is not diverted to non-medical purposes and, yet, both law enforcement and the courts have shown an almost unbelievable reluctance to give recognition to this Voter Initiative that was passed OVER 20 YEARS AGO in 1996. The basic problem is that there is an unwillingness on the part of both the California State Legislature as well as most local Municipalities to allow these Medical Marijuana business-owners to function as legitimate businesses by enacting common sense rules regarding proper documentation of income, expenses, patient verification, transportation and other normal business records. This leaves legitimate Medical-Marijuana providers in a "legal limbo" where they are actually better off keeping no records and simply hoping that their employees and associates don't happen to be contacted by law enforcement while tending to their grow/processing operation, delivering large commercial quantities of Medical Marijuana or while in possession of large sums of cash. It is lunacy to push an otherwise legal business towards to the choice to operate underground as if they were an illegal business.
I see the issues regarding Medical Marijuana as almost being a Civil Rights type of issue and, for that reason, Medical Marijuana Defense is something that I am personally passionate about. The writing, of course, is on the wall for the existence of all types of Marijuana prohibition in California but, until then, I enthusiastically welcome all such cases at the Law Offices of Marc McBride.
Keep in mind, however, that while I always attempt to accomplish the individual goals of my individual clients, that is not to say that I do not develop opinions as to what would be in the best interests of my clients. You can count on discussing what would be in your "best interests" with me while we both work out the best resolution of your case and I will most definitely tell you what I believe would be in your best interests whether you wish to hear it or not. I believe that a good lawyer needs to tell you things that you do not necessarily want to hear.
Whether you have failed to appear for an original court date, missed a court date due to work or family issues or have had a Bench Warrant issued for failure to complete a term of your probation, I can help you deal with the courts in a more controlled manner than if you simply show up yourself hoping to catch a judge on a good day.
I have been making routine appearances before judges and commissioners in courts throughout Southern California since I began my practice in 1997 and I believe that this has resulted in good working relationships that have helped me "cut to the chase" with these bench officers and get my clients back on track to resume their lives with as few complications as is possible. Under most circumstances, I can appear and handle the Recall of your Warrant in an expedient manner without you having to step foot into the courthouse. I always do everything that I can to take the fear and stress out of the criminal court process for my clients and, to put it bluntly, when I appear in court for you there is not even an opportunity for a judge to take you into custody...which makes life easier for both of us!
I am still frequently asked whether it would "show the judge that I am serious by being personally present in court?" You should realize that most courts that I deal with recognize that hiring my office is an indication that my client is taking his or her responsibilities seriously just as it is an indication that my client is likely to comply with future orders.
The greatest asset that my clients receive when they hire my office is, however, that through my experience with and contacts within these courts I know which judges and commissioners to steer cases away from when I am having a Warrant recalled and doing damage control for my client.
When your concern for your driving record and licensing issues is paramount, hiring my office can ensure that your likelihood of success is maximized. Some people have specific problems that they need to avoid such as:
Having a lawyer represent you on your Traffic Infraction matter always serves as a reminder to these bench officers that problems on their part will not go unreported. Although I admit that the world should not work like this, there is no doubt that lawyers have greater success at convincing other lawyers (which judges and commissioners are, afterall) to agree to things such as Level 2 Traffic School, Motions declaring issues to be Unconstitutional or Illegal, or to simply convince these bench officers to follow the law and find you Not Guilty when the government has not proven you Guilty!
And, if I do not obtain a positive result in front of the judge or commissioner at a court trial, I am able to file all documents necessary to appeal the decision with the ultimate goal of keeping points and convictions off of your driving record. Whether the charge is a major offense or a minor offense, hiring my office ensures that your interests will be represented using every available advantage.
PLEA WITHDRAWAL AND CLEARING YOUR RECORD:
GETTING OUT OF A BAD DEAL:
Many people enter into plea bargains without truly thinking through the consequences...both short term and long term. Being in custody can cause either hopelessness or a "reality check" depending on your point of view but, there is no doubt that it affects the decision-making process. Everyone should enter into a plea agreement with a clear head free of pressure but, the real world does not work that way much to the benefit of judges, prosecutors and many defense lawyers (both public and private). Thinking through your decision to give up your right to a Jury Trial should also include consideration of collateral consequences in addition to realistically addressing the impact of fines, classes and other things that the court can impose that add burdens to your life. At this point in history, staying out of jail may not do you much good if you are unemployable or if the hoops the court or Probation Department will make you jump through are truly unmanageable and everybody should realize that failing to complete probation terms can ultimately land them where they did not want to be...back in jail.
Although simple "buyer’s remorse" is not an automatic way out of a bad plea agreement, a thinking person will always look for ways to make their situation better. If you agreed to a plea agreement that included consequences that you did not understand, you need to talk to a lawyer to see if your problems can be fixed. If you pled guilty to a charge that you were not guilty of, you need to talk to a lawyer to see whether your decision was a good one or not. I am a pragmatic person and, as such, I do believe that there are a multitude of considerations that need to be taken into account when deciding to attempt to withdraw your plea. I have, in fact, recommended to people that they accept a plea to charges that they truly do not deserve in exchange for other benefits that the plea agreement creates. There is a difference, however, between the business-like advice that I give to clients and the way that some other defense lawyers attempt to make your decisions for you...if that is why you entered into a plea agreement, you definitely need to talk to a lawyer to evaluate whether you need to attempt to withdraw your plea. I have helped many people go through this process and I may be able to help you out of your own "bad deal."
PETITIONS FOR PLEA WITHDRAWAL AND DISMISSAL (aka EXPUNGEMENT):
In many circumstances, the process of having an old conviction cleared from your record is simple to the point that I advise prospective or former clients to go through the process without the expense of hiring my office. Whether it would be a simple or a complicated process for you is something that we can certainly discuss although it is always true that hiring a lawyer makes the process trouble-free for you.
If you are attempting to have your record cleared and you are still on probation (formal or informal), this process tends to be more complicated to the point that most people would need a lawyer’s help. If you have gotten into any legal trouble subsequent to the conviction in question, you are likely to need the help of a good lawyer and I am generally of the opinion that the need for a lawyer’s help increases as the seriousness of the conviction increases. Realize that "Expungements" are not available as a matter of right for a defendant as they are granted at the discretion of the court. Feel free to contact me at anytime with questions in this area.
CERTIFICATES OF REHABILITATION AND PARDON:
A Certificate of Rehabilitation and Pardon is a method of clearing a conviction from a person's record when that person was actually sentenced to a State Prison term. For a discussion of the criteria and process involved in this remedy, please contact my office for an in-person interview.
***NOTE: Due to the involved nature of the research and discussion inherent to this issue, there is a fee for all office consultations involving issues related to Certificates of Rehabilitation and Pardon.
There is no type of charge that has a greater effect on one’s record and life than a Sex offense. I have represented both men and women charged with Sex offenses since 1997 and, whether you are charged with Prostitution charges such as Solicitation and Loitering, with Sexual Battery, or with the more serious matters such as Forcible Rape, Statutory Rape or of Crimes against Children, hiring my office ensures that you or your loved one will be protected from all avoidable harm in a dignified manner with the straightforward advice that you need.
While representing people on Failure to Register charges, I have discussed in great detail the problems that occur in regard to any registrable Sex offense. The main problem with Sex registration, in my opinion, is not so much that the database tells your neighbors of your history but, rather, it is that the database lumps every Sex offender together in a way that leaves most people thinking that they have a "child molester" next door. The panic that ensues when neighbors believe that a dangerous Sex offender is living nearby results in a significant risk of neighbors (and neighborhood kids) creating false allegations of repeat offenses that police are unlikely to ignore.
If you are facing charges that will require Registration as a Sex Offender under PC290, you need to recognize that the ultimate outcome of your case is likely to affect you for the rest of your life. And, whether you are factually guilty or factually innocent, you need to do everything possible to minimize the impact that this type of offense will have on your future. I am not necessarily the lawyer that you will choose but, beginning the process of hiring the lawyer that you want to represent your interests is a task that you should be working on immediately if you believe that you will be facing charges that involve Sex Registration.
The thought of going through the court process is an intimidating prospect for most people charged with Loitering or Solicitation offenses. Whatever side of the equation you are on, I can deal with the courts for you in a way that avoids embarassment, minimizes or eliminates the impact of the offense on your public record and ensures that you will have to deal with a bare minimum of consequences of both the personal and court-imposed variety.
During marital breakups, the false molestation or forcible rape by a spouse allegation can be a powerful tool to manipulate the outcome of a Family court matter. Young females can very easily make up false allegations that force was involved when their parents realize that a daughter has been sexually active and social workers can have dramatically varying ideas regarding the appropriate action to take when a County agency realizes that a minor is pregnant. Unfortunately, a 1964 California Court decision called People v. Olsen placed a powerful tool in the hands of prosecutors by taking away what is a legal excuse in any other type of criminal charge in the State of California. What the Olsen court did was (in what should be called "dicta") declare that, due to the "Tender Years" of girls under 14, that the fact that a defendant had both a good faith and objectively reasonable belief that the girl was over 14 was not a defense, thus, deciding that the crime of "Lewd Act with a Child under 14" was the only "strict liability" crime for which people would be sent to prison in the State of California.
Because of the stigma and penalties, there is no more important time to choose the Criminal Defense Attorney that you believe will always keep fighting for you than on a Sex offense case. Although the majority of our neighbors would even find my participation in this type of defense morally reprehensible, I consider defending people from society’s "witch-hunt" over allegations of Sex crimes to be among the most honorable ways to correct what is a legal system that has gone horribly wrong. Unfortunately, by overreacting to every allegation, the police treat even ridiculous claims as true...and the result is that we have created a system that does everything possible to bend the rules against the accused. That is not the way that the American Legal System was envisioned and, on behalf of my clients, I make every possible effort to correct it.
Frequently Asked Questions:
A smart person considers and weighs all of their options. People call me everyday asking whether they should hire an Attorney to represent them in their Criminal Defense matter. The decision to hire an expert or to attempt to do something for yourself depends on whether you feel more comfortable having a professional maximize your chances of obtaining the best outcome or if, on the other hand, you are only concerned with having no up front costs.
The decision here is not that different from the decision to get, for instance, Medical Insurance...of course, most people don’t need to hire a lawyer before they are arrested or charged but, you are ultimately asking yourself the same question: "Do I want to be protected no matter what?"
Many lawyers try to convince people that there is something magical about what they do but, the truth is that being an effective Criminal Defense Lawyer is no different than being a good plumber, electrician or mechanic. It all comes down to having specialized knowledge and with having the tools to deal with your client’s specific problem.
Even the least serious Criminal charges can have a long-lasting effect that reaches into many areas of a person’s life. Some of those effects are financial but, many of the effects of an inadequate defense go far beyond an impact on your pocketbook. While it is not my goal to scare people into hiring a lawyer, you need to realize that it is not realistic to pretend that the courts will treat you the way that you want or even deserve to be treated. You need to keep in mind that both misdemeanor and felony convictions can and often do result in penalties that include:
These things may not all occur but, just realize that the best way to minimize or eliminate consequences is to take control of your defense right away (for DUI cases you only have 10 days to schedule a DMV hearing). Competent attorneys help by quickly setting up your defense against the prosecution and, ultimately, by knowing how to ‘work’ the system to your best advantage.
That is what I do and that is why clients hire me. I have successfully handled thousands of Criminal Defense matters since my career began in 1997. I have primarily focused on the courts of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino counties although I have handled matters in virtually every courthouse in Southern California. I believe that my extensive background and thorough understanding of how to deal with the courts that I appear in may just be the key to a successful conclusion for your own case.
The answer is "usually." I can appear for the majority of my clients on misdemeanor cases. There are exceptions for certain court dates in domestic violence and probation violation matters. For the most part, clients are required by California law to be personally present on felony cases although judges do have the authority to allow for an appearance through counsel if there is a good reason and certain waivers are given in court.
Keep in mind, however, that oftentimes police arrest on felony charges when misdemeanor charges will ultimately be filed. Once a felony is reduced to a misdemeanor, I can usually appear for all purposes without my client having to be personally present.
It is not really that complicated. The first court appearance is called the "Arraignment." At this date the court tells me the specific charges that were filed, I obtain the initial packet of police reports and I enter a "Not Guilty" plea. This "Not Guilty" plea sets in motion to settlement negotiations with prosecutors and, if appropriate, the plea will be changed at a later date.
The next set of court dates are settlement conferences that most counties call "Pre-Trials." At a Pre-Trial, I meet with prosecutors and judges in an attempt to resolve your case. There are numerous reasons that multiple Pre-Trials may occur although usually the case is continued to: (1) get additional reports/information/etc. from the prosecutor; (2) get information or statements from you or your potential witnesses; (3) get physical evidence retested at an independent lab; (4) speak to a different prosecutor or judge; and (5) to discuss options with you in a less stressful out-of-court environment.
In some cases, a "Motion" hearing may be set. A Motion hearing is a written or verbal request to have a judge settle legal disputes such as admissibility of specific evidence, whether Federal or State rules prohibit the case from proceeding to Trial or whether prosecutors will be required to disclose specific evidence for your defense. There are a variety of Motions that can be brought before the court and, depending on the type of Motion, they can be argued either at the Pre-Trial stage or at the Trial stage of your case.
Felony cases have two court dates that do not apply to misdemeanors. First, a felony case may go to a "Preliminary Hearing" where a judge determines if there is enough evidence to send the case to a Trial. The judge hears a short version of the prosecutor"s side of the case and the defense case is extremely limited. The prosecutor can usually have police officers testify to what the actual witnesses told the officer. Because the judge"s job at a Preliminary Hearing is really just to weed out cases that have absolutely basis for going to Trial, Preliminary Hearings are mostly useful to me as a tool to clarify problems in police reports. In some circumstances, I can also request that the judge reduce the case to a misdemeanor. After the Preliminary Hearing, felony cases have a second "Arraignment" in "Superior Court" and, like the original Arraignment, this is usually just a scheduling date.
If there is a conviction of any kind, a "Sentencing" date will occur. Most people are sentenced on the same day as a guilty plea or Trial verdict although some cases require a continuance so that a "Probation Report" can be prepared. How we obtain the best sentencing outcome is determined on a case-by-case basis and, although I give my input, you ultimately decide how to proceed at every stage. Some lawyers forget it but, it is your life after all.
First, every person has the right to have their guilt or innocence determined by a unanimous 12 person jury on any felony or misdemeanor case in the State of California. Prosecutors have the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and, although this is a high standard of proof, it is important to understand that there are a so many variables that come into play during a Jury Trial, that there is always a significant risk of losing what is objectively a great defense case. The flip side of this is that people on juries, because they are just normal people out of the community, can also engage in what I would describe as rather bizarre decision making that can also result in a "Not Guilty" verdict. The decision to have your guilt determined through a Jury Trial is not one that should be made without a tremendous amount of thought. There are defenses that, while legitimate, do not tend to resonate with most people who show up for jury duty and prosecutors know this. As a result, the answer to my "should I go to Trial" question is: "This decision cannot be answered honestly in a pamphlet or on a website...we will be talking about it as your case develops...in great detail."
MARC McBRIDE, Attorney at Law
Copyright © Law Offices of Marc McBride. All rights reserved.