Defendants in Marin County should familiarize themselves with the unique aspects of their local court system.
It is important to understand the various court appearances and proceedings that may be involved in your case. A felony case typically follows a series of stages, each with its own purpose and procedures.
The arraignment is usually the first court appearance. During an arraignment, a defendant is formally informed of the charges against them, and they are given an opportunity to enter a plea.
The three common pleas are:
- Guilty: Admitting to the charges, which can lead to a conviction.
- Not Guilty: Denying the charges, which triggers the trial process.
- No Contest (Nolo Contendere): Not admitting guilt but not contesting the charges. This plea is treated as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.
At the arraignment, the court may also address bail, release conditions, and set future court dates.
Following the arraignment, there may be pretrial hearings. At this time, the prosecution and defense may engage in negotiations, present motions, and exchange evidence. These hearings aim to streamline the legal process before trial.
If a resolution cannot be reached through negotiation or dismissal, the case proceeds to trial. Felony trials involve multiple stages, including jury selection, opening statements, presentation of evidence, cross-examination, and closing arguments. The outcome of the trial is determined by the jury’s verdict.
If the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty, a separate sentencing hearing is held. The court considers various factors, including the defendant’s criminal history and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. The judge then determines the appropriate sentence.
If a defendant is convicted and believes that errors or injustices occurred during the trial or sentencing, they have the option to file an appeal. The appellate process allows for a review of the trial court’s decisions, with the goal of potentially overturning the conviction or securing a more favorable outcome.
Failure to Appear
Failing to appear in court when required can have severe consequences. If you miss a court date, the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest, which means law enforcement can detain you and bring you before the court. Additionally, missing court appearances can negatively impact your case and result in additional charges for failure to appear.