Perhaps due to our constant exposure to the law, lawyers, judges, and courtroom staff often throw legal jargon and acronyms around without explaining them. This causes much confusion to clients and other parties who are unfamiliar with the law.

Here at Orange County Criminal Attorney, we believe in educating our clients. We believe that criminal defense is a corroborative practice; that is, the best defense is the fruit of our expertise and hardwork combined with the client’s participation and support. As such, we feel it is important that our clients understand the procedure in a criminal case.

Let’s start by talking about the arrest. In California, most criminal cases are initiated through an arrest. This process is further broken down into “the stop/detention,” and the “arrest.”

During a stop and/or detention, law enforcement officers will initiate an investigative stop (otherwise known as a detention). Typically, they will ask for your name, identification, and conduct some low level investigation. The most common example of an investigative stop is a traffic stop. At this level, the officer merely needs “reasonable suspicion,” a relatively low evidentiary standard.

At some point during the detention, the officer will determine either: 1) to terminate the detention, or 2) to escalate the detention into an arrest. If the officer elects to conduct a full arrest, the officer will conduct further investigation, and has the option of taking you into custody. An arrest usually ends in one of three ways: 1) the officer elects to let you leave with no further action, 2) the officer issues you a ticket that also serves as a notice to appear in court, or 3) the officer will take you into custody and hold you in jail until your arraignment.

The arraignment is the first court appearance in criminal cases. During the arraignment, the judge will verify that you: 1) know the charges against you, 2) know your constitutional rights, and 3) have an attorney to represent you. The judge will also ask for your plea as to the pending charges, and set your bail amount. In most cases, defendants will elect to plead “not guilty” to the charges. This is because this allows the defense time to do its own investigation, and try to reach the best disposition based on the circumstances of the case.

Keep in mind that the arraignment is only the first court appearance in any criminal case. There is much more to be done after the arraignment. This information will be covered in additional articles.