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What Is A Cruz Waiver In a California Criminal Case?

When it comes to criminal cases in California, there are all sorts of terminology that criminal defense attorneys need to know and sometimes it's helpful for a criminal defendant to know as well.

This concept of a Cruz waiver has to do with a criminal defendant who has entered a guilty plea or no contest plea to a felony in a criminal case, and then decides that they are ready to plead, but they are not ready to actually serve their jail time. The Cruz Waiver is named after the two California appellate court decisions that created it: People v. Cruz (1988) 44 Cal.3d 1247 and People v. Vargas (1990) 223 Cal.App.3d 1107.

Judge Accepts Plea  – Defendant Jail Surrender Later Under Cruz Waiver

So, what can happen is, the judge can say okay, I'm going to take your plea today. I'll go ahead and I'll put your sentencing over and your jail surrender over to another date.

But, I'm going to take what's called a Cruz waiver, and if during the thirty-day period, for example, that you're out of custody getting your affairs in order pending your sentencing after you pled, you pick up some new case or you do something to violate the law, I'm going to use that Cruz waiver against you.

Then, not only are you going to be looking at the time that you agreed to, I'm going to be able to give you additional time. This is what the judge is going to say. I'm going to be able to give you up to the maximum sentence in your criminal case.

Real Case Example of Cruz Waiver in Los Angeles

A real nasty example of this that I saw – fortunately it wasn't my case, but one of my fellow criminal defense attorneys had a client in the San Fernando courthouse that showed up late for his sentencing after taking a Cruz waiver.

He was a couple of hours late. He had some sort of an excuse. The judge said well listen, we took the Cruz waiver. You didn't abide by your end of the bargain and now instead of me giving you one hundred eighty days in County Jail, I'm going to give you sixteen months in State Prison, and the judge did it and there was really nothing to stop the judge from doing that because they had done the Cruz waiver.

They tell you at the time of the Cruz waiver, I'm going to let you out now. I'm going to let you go, but you pled guilty. Now we got you.

If you violate the terms and conditions of your Bond or your OR release, if you pick up a new case, if you do something illegal and I find out about it, if you don't show up on time, I'm going to use this Cruz waiver to give you a harsher punishment than you would have got if you would have just surrendered at the time you took the plea.

Defendant's Seeking Additional Time for Jail Surrender in Los Angeles

As a defense attorney, I have clients all the time telling me, I don't want to surrender yet. I need more time. And most of the time, not all the time, most of the time I can get them more time. I can get them at least a couple of weeks – maybe even a month, and depending on the circumstances, the judges will listen.

They are reasonable and if the person is not a flight risk and not a danger to the community to commit more crimes, then most of the time they will give them the extra time in order to get their affairs in order so they can surrender at a later date.

But it is a danger and I have warned a lot of clients. I say listen, don't do this if you're going to go out and do something stupid. Especially near the holiday, people go out drinking and driving. Would a drinking and driving violate a Cruz waiver? Absolutely, new case. Now you're looking at more time. You're just looking at a whole big problem.

So, when you plead in your criminal case that that's what you're going to do and they take this Cruz waiver, make sure your attorney explains all the ins-and-outs of it. Make sure your attorney explains proclivities of the particular judge that's going to be taking the Cruz waiver, and you better be on time for court.

That's the main thing people get nailed on is not coming to court on time. Either they over-slept. They didn't anticipate for traffic. So, if you've taken a Cruz waiver in a case, make sure you don't get into any more trouble, make sure you show up to court on time. Before you take a Cruz waiver in a case, obviously you're going to want to talk to your attorney about it.

Make sure they are on-board with you doing it. But really, the Cruz waiver is a pretty simple vehicle to say to the defendant, we're going to give you a break here. We won't take you into custody yet.

We're not going to institute your punishment yet. We are going to take your plea, but the bad thing is, once we take your plea if you do something wrong, especially if you're on probation for example, we're then going to be able to violate your probation.

We're going to be able to give you more penalties than you normally got. God forbid you take a plea and they do a Cruz waiver and you potentially get a prison sentence, because you pick up some stupid case like a DUI or you show up late to court or you do something else, like you're caught drunk in public.

So, just be aware – if you take a Cruz waiver on a case you've got to live by the letter of the law before you turn yourself in and you better turn yourself in at the right time, right location and right date.

For more information on Cruz Waiver In A California Criminal Case, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0979 today.