I have a lot of clients who retain me before any case is filed against them. Sometimes a case is under investigation. Other times, they've been arrested, posted a bail and they're waiting for their first court date which is called the arraignment in a criminal case. In some cases, not all, there is a chance to try to get the case dismissed or get what they call a non-filing before the court date, or even at the court date, thus it's important to understand the pre-filing issues.
A lot of times what we do is, file what is called a mitigation package and send it to the filing deputies for the prosecutors — either the City Attorney if it's a misdemeanor, or if it's a felony, we will send it to the District Attorney's office that has jurisdiction over the particular case.
Los Angeles County is broken up into a bunch of different jurisdictions and each jurisdiction has its own District Attorney's office with its own head D.A. and own Assistant Deputies. It's the same thing with the City Attorney's Office.
What we're trying to do is get to that pre-filing deputy before they make the decision to file the case or not. We usually send a letter — we can have it delivered or we can email it if we can target the right person. What we'll have in the letter is obviously, kind of all of the mitigating factors laid out very concisely — not too much — you can't write a book or they're not going to take the time to read it — but lay it out in a very professional way, really giving the client's version of what happened in the best light to the client.
The prosecutors know that; they realize that and they're going to match that up against whatever they have. In addition to that, we will include character letters from friends, family, a job, a school or a church — any type of a religious organization — that shows that the person is a good upstanding community member who is not likely to repeat whatever behavior got them into trouble in the first place.
Avoiding Filing of Formal Criminal Charges
Really what we're trying to do is to avoid a filing. We talk about pre-filing intervention which makes sense to the average person and a lot of times people are saying, please get the case dismissed against me. I got arrested. I've got a court date pending. The reality is what we're trying to do in this pre-filing situation in Los Angeles is, we're trying to avoid a filing all together. So, we're really not looking to dismiss charges. We don't want the charges to be filed.
What happens is, in both of the prosecuting agencies — whether it be City Attorney in Los Angeles or District Attorney in Los Angeles — that case is going to be sent to a filing deputy by the police. Once the filing deputy gets it, they're going to review the case, decide whether to file it and what to file.
They have a number of options. If we can get the mitigation package to them — if it's a close call — a lot of times they'll look at it and they won't file the case. So, that's what we're aiming to do. At minimum, we want to try to get that mitigating package into the court file, so even if they do file the case, we've got that in there and we're already off to a head start in trying to resolve the matter.
City Attorney & District Attorneys Hearings
One key thing that they can do if they think it's a close case, but they want to give the person the benefit of the doubt is, they can do what's called a City Attorney Hearing. Basically, what that is, they've got a hearing office and hearing officers — usually, they're not even prosecutors. They're just people who try to resolve cases.
So, if they send it to a City Attorney Hearing in the City Attorney's office, then most of the time they're not going to file that case. I'll appear with the client. We'll talk to them. We'll give our side of the story. We'll be professional and police. A lot of times we can avoid that filing, and I've even seen them take the extra step of coordinating with law enforcement so we can seal that arrest record.
As far as the District Attorney goes, they don't really have District Attorney Hearings in Los Angeles County, but they can decide not to file the case. They can let you avail yourself to some other program other than having to be criminally prosecuted in criminal court in Los Angeles. They can have the officer investigate the case further. Once they get our letter, they may say, we need to look into this case further. We didn't get all the right information. We've only got half the story.
Consult with an Experienced Criminal Lawyer
So, there's pre-filing dismissal or pre-filing effort to try and avoid any criminal charges being filed whatsoever is very important. It does not apply in every case, so don't let other attorneys fool you out there. You need to talk to somebody like me who has been doing this twenty-five years. I will give you the straight/honest truth whether you have any chance pre-filing to avoid a case being filed against you.
Sometimes they have the evidence on you. They're going to file a case against you and it's just a matter of mitigating things; other times, it's a close call — it's a gray area — and we really have a good chance to get that pre-filing information in and attempt to get that non-filing or City Attorney Hearing so you can avoid having a blemish on your record and facing the criminal process in Los Angeles.