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How Long Does It Take To Resolve a Criminal Case in Los Angeles?


When it comes to criminal defense, it’s very difficult to put your finger on exactly how long a criminal case might take to resolve itself. A lot of the courts though are so over-crowded that they have rules as far as how quickly they want the cases moved through them.

90-Day Rule on Misdemeanor Cases in Los Angeles

For example, Van Nuys court basically has a 90-day rule for all misdemeanors. So, 90 days from the filing of the case, the judges are expecting the case to be resolved one way or another.

What that means is, either it’s going to be a jury trial and the jury will find the person guilty or not guilty, or there’s going to be a dismissal by the prosecutors, or there’s going to be some sort of a plea bargain reached by the defense and the prosecutors. So, they need to move these cases through because there are new cases coming every single day.

The bottom line is, if they let cases languish around in Los Angeles County, they’re going to be over-run with criminal cases and won’t be able to conduct any business in the criminal courthouse.

6 Months Up To 3 Years in Felony Cases in Los Angeles

As far as felonies go, you can typically expect that from the low-end they can be resolved in a couple of months, to the high-end, I’ve seen them go as long as two or three years. But, on average, you’re probably going to get rid of a felony case within three to six months – either by way of a jury trial or by way of some sort of a negotiated plea. What can make cases take longer is when some sort of evidence needs to be obtained, that either the defense or prosecution needs, and there’s a problem obtaining it.

For example, I’ve seen cases stretch out for many months when DNA evidence crucial in making a determination whether a person is innocent or guilty of some sort of a sex crime, murder or other case where there’s DNA involved, that the defense or prosecution needs in order to be able to argue their case.

Also, I’ve seen video evidence take some time. Trying to locate witnesses can slow cases up. Filing motions – search and seizure motions – maybe a home was searched.

So, there are all sorts of different angles that can be taken by the defense that can cause the case to take longer. I’ve seen cases where a bunch of restitution is owed and the defendant is trying to save money, because the more restitution they pay, the better off they’ll be when it comes to resolving the case.

So, sometimes there’s an incentive to stall the case and make it take longer so the person can rack up some money to pay the restitution.

Pitchess Motion in Los Angeles Criminal Cases

Other times, the defense can try to continue cases so a person can get their driver’s license, which will make a big difference in a case. Sometimes a bunch of motions needs to be litigated like a Pitchess Motion, where you’re trying to get information on the police to see if they’ve ever lied before or filed a false police report so you can use that to attack their credibility at a trial.

So, there are all sorts of different reasons that can make that three to six months average either go up or down. Sometimes there’s an incentive to resolve the case quickly. Maybe the person is in custody and they’re not getting out of custody unless the case is resolved.

Once a case is resolved, they can get out of custody. You never want to be in a position where just because someone is in custody, they’re going to take a guilty plea when they’re not guilty. So, that’s another thing to look out for as a criminal defense attorney.

Seeking Best Resolution Regardless of Time

But on average, from my perspective – from a criminal defense standpoint – the case is going to take as long as it takes to get the best resolution. That’s either by way of a jury trial or by way of some sort of a negotiated plea or maybe you want to get some evidence to show the prosecutor, so they’ll the person a diversionary program or an outright dismissal depending on the circumstances of the case.

So, when you’re deciding how long your case is going to take, you really need to sit down with your criminal defense attorney and find out what the best strategy is. Then once that strategy is set and you decide exactly how the case is going to be litigated, then you have a better feel for how long the case is going to take.

When people ask me that, I say we can get it done as quick as you want if you’re ready to go in there and plead guilty and take what they’re giving you, but obviously, most people don’t want to do that.

They want to try to either angle the case so they can get the best resolution or set the case up by an investigation to cause them to dismiss it, get a diversionary program or get it ready to go to trial and obviously, have the best defense available to convince the jury that you’re not guilty.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

So, the first thing you should do if you want an idea of how long your case is going to take in Los Angeles is, sit down with your attorney. Your attorney is going to want to hear your full story and also is going to want to review all available evidence. Contact the Hedding Law Firm for help.

This will give him a real good feel for how quickly the case is going to get resolved – what type of investigation is needed, what type of motions need to be filed, and how you’re going to handle the case moving forward, and that will give you a real good feel once the attorney has looked at everything, how long the case is going to take and whether it’s in your best interest for the case to go quickly or slowly.

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About the Author

Named Top Los Angeles Criminal Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 criminal defense attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.