What happens after someone is cited for either an infraction or a misdemeanor; or under unfortunate circumstances is arrested for a misdemeanor or felony violation?
After someone has been given a citation for either an infraction or a misdemeanor, or has been taken into custody for committing a misdemeanor or felony, the person is brought before a judge to be arraigned of the charges against him or her. The arraignment is the judicial process of informing a person accused of committing a public offense, be it a felony, misdemeanor or infraction, of the nature and cause of the accusation (s) against him or her by a judge. Cal. Penal Code §988. Prior to the arraignment a formal complaint, referred to as accusatory pleading, must be filed by the prosecuting attorney; the accusatory pleading must contain the name of the court which the pleading is filed in, as well as the name of the parties and a statement of the public offense(s) being charged. Cal. Penal Code §950.
In addition to placing a person on notice of the accusations against them, the arraignment provides the opportunity to plead either guilty or not guilty. Cal. Penal Code §1016. That is, the arraignment affords the opportunity to communicate his or her position on the accusations against them to the judge, or to make a motion to set aside the accusatory pleading. See, People v. Bond, 179 Cal. App. 2d 820, 822 (Cal. App. 1 Dist. 1960). For a court to adequately prosecute an individual for having committed a public offense it must have the authority to do so, in other words the court must have jurisdiction to prosecute the individual. When the accusatory pleading is filed, the defendant shall be arraigned thereon before the court in which it is filed. Cal. Penal Code §976.
When someone is arraigned does that person have the right to be represented by an attorney (commonly referred to as right to counsel)?
During the arraignment the judge must inform the person being charged with a public offense of his or her right to counsel in every stage of the proceedings. Cal. Penal Code §858 Online Casino. The person being charged with a public offense may obtain legal representation, i.e. counsel, at his or her expense, or if he or she is unable to employ counsel the court shall assign an attorney to represent him or her. Cal. Penal Code §987. To assist the court in determining whether the defendant (person being charged with a public offense) is able to employ legal representation, the court may require the defendant to file a financial statement under penalty of perjury with the court. Cal. Penal Code §987. Even if the defendant is financially able to secure legal representation and either refuses to employ an attorney or appears before the court without an attorney after having had reasonable time to secure one, the court shall assign an attorney. Cal. Penal Code §987. Under such circumstances, subsequent to the criminal proceedings, the court will set the amount to be reimbursed and order the defendant to pay the sum in a manner that is reasonable and compatible with defendant’s financial ability. Cal. Penal Code §987.8.
Is legal representation completely free, in the event the court assigns an attorney, if one is unable to pay for such services?
Not necessarily, if the defendant is unable to pay for an attorney and one is assigned by the court, the court may order a hearing, after the criminal proceedings have concluded, to determine whether the defendant owns or has interest in real property or other assets subject to attachment and not otherwise exempt by law, to compensate the court for having to expend resources to pay for legal services. Cal. Penal Code §987.8.
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This blog is meant to be informative in nature and is not to be construed as legal advice. If you have a legal issue call Seneca Law Group today and speak to one of our experienced attorneys. This blog was created and written by legal intern Hector Leija