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    Everything You Need to Know About the Criminal Defense Process in California

    Posted on: January 3rd, 2023 by Dod Law

    Criminal Defense ProcessCriminal Defense Process

    When you have been accused of a crime in California, the criminal defense process can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time being charged. Understanding the steps involved in this process is key to putting together a successful case and should not be taken lightly. 

    Fortunately, our team at Dod Law, APC is here to guide you and work to support you every step of the way. From free consultations to fighting for your rights in court, we will strive to provide you with the best possible legal representation to ensure that your future is secure.

    What to Know About the Criminal Defense Process in California

    If you have been criminally charged in California, there are a few things to take note of, including:

    Arrest and Initial Appearance

    The criminal defense process typically begins with the defendant’s arrest. If a warrant was issued for your arrest, it must be signed by a judge, who will then set bail or remand you to custody pending trial. 

    In most cases, an initial appearance is held before the court shortly after the arrest, where you can enter a plea.

    How Cases Start in the Criminal Defense Process

    In California, criminal cases can begin in a few different ways. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense, your case will start when prosecutors file charges against you. You can expect to receive notice of the charges from the court and prosecutors. In some cases, however, defendants may be asked to appear in court without any prior notice. 

    The Arraignment

    At the arraignment, you will be asked to enter a plea of either not guilty, guilty, or no contest. This is an important decision and you should meet with your lawyer before entering any answer. If you plead guilty to the charges against you, your case will proceed directly to sentencing. 

    A plea of not guilty puts the burden of proof on the prosecution, who will have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When you plead “no contest,” it means you’re neither admitting guilt nor denying it, but that you are still subject to potential sentencing. In some cases, depending on the severity of the charges, bail may be available or set at this hearing.

    Discovery and Pretrial Proceedings

    During the discovery phase, both sides will exchange evidence and information related to your case. At this stage, you may also be able to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecution. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the case will go to trial. 

    The Trial

    If your case goes to trial, it can either be a bench trial, where you are tried in front of a judge only, or a jury trial, where a panel of jurors are the decision-makers. During the trial, witnesses may be called and evidence presented to prove your guilt. The prosecution is responsible for proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

    At trial, your criminal defense attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and present evidence on your behalf. Your attorney can also make objections to any evidence or questions that are presented by the prosecution. The jury (or judge) will then render a verdict of guilty or not guilty. 


    If you are found guilty or plead guilty to the charges against you, your case will proceed to sentencing. Depending on the severity of the crime and the circumstances surrounding it, sentences may include jail or prison time, probation, fines, or a combination thereof.

    Dod Law, APC Has the Experience and Expertise You Need

    Navigating the criminal defense process in California can be difficult and intimidating. At Dod Law, APC, we understand the gravity of your situation and are dedicated to fighting for your rights. Our team of experienced attorneys will strive to provide you with the best possible legal defense, helping you secure a favorable outcome in your case. 

    If you or someone you love has been charged with a criminal offense, fill out our contact form or call us at (619) 814-5110 to schedule a free consultation.

    At a Glance

    Meet Attorney Dod Ghassemkhani

    • Recent Case Results
    • San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association | Named San Diego County’s 2023 Trial Lawyer Of The Year
    • Award Winning Criminal Defense Attorney
    • The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers
    • Over 20 years of criminal defense experience
    • 10.0 “Superb” Avvo Rating