Unfortunately, what happens a lot of times is the police approach people and they are obviously in uniform. They have a car. A lot of times before they approach you they put the lights on you and it's just a shock to people's system that they're in contact with the police – that they could potentially be in some sort of trouble.
This causes them to do and say things that they normally might not say if they Monday-morning quarterbacked it and thought about it, they might say no, I'm not going to answer those questions. I'm not going to do that. So, this section is about giving you an idea of what your rights are before you come in contact with the police, and then obviously after you come in contact with the police.
Before you come into contact with the police, obviously you need to know that, as Miranda says – which is the case that gave you some rights not to speak to the police – you don't have to talk to the police.
You Don't Have To Talk To Police
You don't really have to give them any information, and if you don't, there's really not much they can do about it. So, that's probably issue no.1 because the police will come aggressively at you in a criminal situation and they're going to say hey, we need you to tell us x, y and z and you're going to look at them and you're going to be scared.
That's one reaction by people, and then you say a bunch of stuff and later on they try to use that against you. Or, you're not scared but you think you can talk your way out of whatever issue you have related to the police, and so you start saying a bunch of stuff.
The problem with that is a lot of times you're mischaracterized by the police, and now later on down the road your criminal defense attorney is trying to deal with the case, and over-and-over again your statement keeps popping up to ruin you.
So, basically, the bottom line is really, you don't have to say anything to the police. You can certainly be polite to them, but in your politeness, you can just simply tell them, I'm not going to make any statements. If don't have to make any statements, and if I were to make a statement, my attorney would be present.
That's pretty much the end of it. They're not going to take a hot poker to your eye and threaten you, although I have heard of them threatening people they're going to take their children away, or they're going to arrest their significant other.
They have all sorts of things that they can do, but the bottom line is – I'm telling you, nine times out of ten or better, speaking to the police is probably the number one issue that causes people problems. So, first and foremost when it comes to legal rights is that you don't have to speak to the police.
Police And Procedures – How Things Work
You're always best letting your attorney deal with a situation, but if the police catch you by surprise and you have to make some quick decisions because they are pressing you about some issues, the very simple answer to them is that I'm not going to make any statements.
I have an attorney and I'm going to let my attorney deal with any issues that I might have, and then you don't make any statements. If you have the benefit of knowing that you're under investigation by the police, then obviously you're going to want to get your attorney involved right from the beginning.
Let them make the decisions for you that could potentially affect your future, your record and your freedom. You don't have an obligation to help the police with their investigation, and another problem with thinking that somehow, you're going to say some things that are going to just resolve and clear up everything – the police are in the competitive business of ferreting out crimes, so they're not there to help you.
They're not there to show that you are innocent even though they might claim that. So, a lot of times what I see happen is people decide to talk to the police or cooperate with them in their investigation, and later on all of a sudden, the police are attributing some statement that they made to them that the client is saying, no, I didn't say it like that.
That's not what I meant by that. Now they're taking things out of context and using it against you. When they're using your own words against you, that's the best evidence a prosecutor can have in a criminal case. So, you do not want to cooperate with the police and their investigation and you let your attorney deal with it right from the beginning, and if they catch you by surprise, you then just do not make any statements and let your attorney deal with it.
Criminal Process in Los Angeles
As far as the criminal process goes, there's a couple of ways that the police can deal with people in Los Angeles County.
If they come upon a situation where they actually see a person committing a crime or they have witnesses who are claiming that a person committed a crime, they can then arrest that person and book them for a crime, set a bail on whatever the bail is for that crime.
They will submit the paperwork and let the prosecutors deal with the case. If you bail out, then you'll usually get a court date about thirty days away depending on how busy that particular jurisdiction or courthouse is in Los Angeles County. If you don't bail out, they're going to have to get you in there within about seventy-two hours.
The worst is when they catch you on a holiday and they can get some extra days in custody if you don't bail out. Really the police can arrest people if they feel they have all they need to get a person for a crime.
The next question becomes, what happens if a crime is not committed in the police's presence and they're just getting a bunch of hearsay information from other people about someone allegedly committing a crime?
In that case, they can do whatever investigation necessary. They can try to talk to the person. If the person doesn't talk then they have a decision to make and that is, do they have enough evidence based on what people have said?
What they've been able to uncover to arrest that person, and they can go find the person and arrest them, or a lot of times what the police are doing now in today's society is they're just collecting all the information and giving it to the prosecutors – who are the lawyers in LA county – like the District Attorney's Office or the City Attorney's Office in LA, and they just let them make the decision on it. That way, the police kind of wash their hands of it.
They say listen, we gave them all the information. They're the lawyers. So, if you got arrested, it's not our fault. Don't file a complaint against us. Don't cry about it. It was the prosecutors or the lawyers that made the decision that you are to be charged with the case.
If the prosecutors then do decide to file a case against you, then the question is how do they deal with that case? A lot of times I've seen them just put a bench warrant in the system and that's it.
Then someone gets picked up or they run themselves because they're trying to get a job and they see they have a warrant and they hire a lawyer and they go in and deal with it, or they can actually go find the person and arrest them. Then the person has to post a bail in order to get out and deal with the case.
Arranging Bail with Your Criminal Lawyer in Los Angeles
Another option is, if the person has an attorney and they know who the attorney is, they know the attorney's name, number, etc., then they just call the attorney and then the attorney can make arrangements for the person to either go to the police station and post a bail, or go to court.
They can have the case called, either have the judge set a bail, have a bail bondsman ready, or the attorney can try to argue that the person gets released on their own recognizance.
Once a case is actually charged by the prosecutors in LA County, the next thing that happens is the attorney gets all the paperwork in the case – the police reports and whatever evidence the prosecutors have been given by the police.
This could be video tapes, audio tapes or any photographs, physical evidence – and then the attorney will just get a copy to the client, let the client review it, and then we sit down and talk about it and we kind of get our strategy together as to what we're going to do moving forward.
Are we going to fight the case, in which case we take an offensive posture? We investigate the case and then we start to attack the prosecutor's case at each stage of the prosecution. That can be done with motions or at the preliminary hearing we can try to argue to the judge that the prosecutor hasn't proved their case to a reasonable suspicion, and therefore, the case should be dismissed.
The other alternative is to try to work out some sort of a plea bargain with the prosecutors and negotiate with them – get a mitigation package – all these things are things that you need to talk to your attorney about.
I have a long conversation with my client, in the beginning, to decide what our approach is going to be, and once we get all the stuff we start making some court appearances. We talk about it again and see if anything has changed and we make the necessary adjustments and deal with the case.
Jury Trial in Los Angeles Courts
Ultimately, if you don't work out a deal with the prosecutors or if he case is not dismissed by way of some motion or the defense attorney convincing the prosecutors it's a bad case once your version of events is given to them, then the last step is a trial.
That's where the rubber meets the road in a criminal case and that's where the prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. You have the presumption of innocence, and if the prosecutors can't prove the case then the case will either be dismissed by the judge or a jury will find you not guilty.
If the jury finds you not guilty then the case is over, and you can move on with your life. If you're found guilty, then the case is now going to be passed to the judge to sentence you. Obviously, mitigation packages can be given to the judge at that time and the judge will make the final decision on what your sentence should be based on the evidence that they heard at the trial.
They would consider any mitigating information that the defense attorney can give them, and any information the prosecutor gives them, and there's also a probation report that is obtained through the probation department.
Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer
They may make a recommendation, run your criminal record and give the judge as much information as they possibly can. The judge takes all that and makes a final decision on it. That's pretty much the criminal process.
There's a number of different things that can happen in these criminal cases. The best way to handle it is to sit down with your attorney because these cases can take all kinds of twists and turns, but it is your attorney who will really get down to the nitty-gritty and give you an idea of what you're facing.
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