If you have been charged with a criminal offense, your first appearance in Court will be the Arraignment. At the arraignment, you will be read your rights, the charges against you and the potential sentence. You will then have the opportunity to speak to the prosecutor and the prosecutor will offer a plea bargain.

A plea bargain is an offer that is supposedly less than the statutory sentence. The hope of prosecutors is that you will accept the lower sentence in hopes of getting a guilty plea and concluding a case. Oftentimes a plea bargain is a good option, but sometimes it is not. Let’s draw out an example so that it is easier to understand.

Donna has been charged with Hit and Run under California Vehicle Code § 20001. She has no prior criminal record. At the arraignment, the Judge reads out the code section, and her rights. The Judge also explains that in accordance with the statute, she may face a potential penalty of up to one year in jail, and/or a fine of $1,000.00 to $10,000.00.

What Donna, and most people who appear at an Arraignment do not know is that the final sentence is determined by a variety of factors, including the individual facts of the case and the person’s criminal background. So if a person has no criminal background, like Donna, and the facts of their case involve no bodily injury, or significant damage, the chances are there will be no jail sentence.

Donna is scared that she will have to go to jail or pay a fine of $10,000.00 which she cannot afford. When prosecutor’s speak to her, they offer her a fine of $3,000.00, probation for three years, restitution, and no jail time, Donna is thrilled. All Donna can focus on is the no jail time, so she eagerly accepts the offer, pleads guilty and is done with her case.

What Donna does not think about is how much restitution is, or the fact that there are alternative available to paying the fine and that the fine will be almost triple after court assessment fees. In addition, Donna did not consult with a Los Angeles Hit and Run lawyer to assess the strengths and weaknesses of her case. To determine if there are any defenses or arguments available to her that could result in a complete dismissal or even a reduction of the charges.

A Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer will know the courtroom and the Judges. They may also be aware that the Arraignment Judge is strict on Hit and Runs, but the Pre Trial Judge is not. If pleading not guilty, and being assigned a new Judge for trial could have gotten a much better deal, that is what the attorney would have recommended.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, do not blindly accept a plea bargain offer in a rush to get the case completed. Take your time and speak to a legal professional to learn your options before entering any type of a plea.

If you have been arrested for a criminal offense, you have not been found guilty. The court has to make a finding of your guilt, either through a full trial, or through a plea entered by you. The very first appearance you make in Court is called an Arraignment.

At the Arraignment, the following things will happen:

  1. You will be asked to enter a plea, whether it is guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  2. You will be read the offense you are being charged with and the potential consequences you may face
  3. You will have the opportunity to talk to the Prosecutor regarding the charges against you
  4. You will be offered a plea bargain in exchange for your guilty plea

The arraignment is a court ordered appearance. If you are given a citation, it will state on the citation the date you must appear in court. If you fail to appear, it is a court violation referred to as a Failure to Appear.

When you fail to appear in Court, the Judge will order a Bench Warrant. A bench warrant allows officers or other authorities to arrest you at any time and take you into custody. It is highly advisable that if you have failed to appear in court, that you appear as soon as possible to explain your failure to appear to the Judge and hope that the Judge recalls the Bench Warrant.

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If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Southern California, that does not mean you have been convicted. If there is no conviction, you will not be facing any type of sentence. If you have either entered a plea of guilty, or no contest, then you have been convicted of a criminal offense. Similarly, if you have gone through trial, and have been found guilty of a criminal offense, then you have been convicted. After the conviction, there is generally a sentence. Most sentences, not all, but most, consist of the following components.

Jail Time

Many offenses will consist of jail or prison time. It is important to note that jail or prison time is not a part of a sentence in every offense. There are many offenses that will not require any jail or prison time. A jail sentence is any time served that is one year or less. Prison time is any time that is served beyond a year. Whether or not you are asked to serve a jail or prison sentence will be determined by the facts of your case and your criminal background. Most often violent crimes, felonies, or second or more offenses will include some time in prison or jail.

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Many people mistakenly believe that because they have a valid prescription for the use of medical Marijuana in California, that they are exempt from driving under the influence offenses. This is absolutely not true.

California Vehicle code §23152, and 23153, make it unlawful for any person to operate a vehicle while impaired. When most people think of a DUI, they immediately associate it with someone driving under the influence of alcohol. Although 23152(a) makes it unlawful “for a person who is under the influence

of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle” it is not a the only influence that can result in a DUI.

23152(e) and (f) also state as follows:

“(e) It is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any drug to drive a vehicle.(f) It is unlawful for a person who is under the combined influence of any alcoholic beverage and drug to drive a vehicle”

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In order to be convicted of a Los Angeles Hit and Run under California Vehicle Code §20001- 20004, Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) there was damage to property and/or injury to person AND 2) the person who caused the damage to property or injury must have fled the scene without leaving any contact information.

Proving one element beyond a reasonable doubt will not be sufficient to find someone guilty of a Hit and Run. For example, let’s say that Danielle was driving home from work one night. She could not see too well due to the foggy and rainy weather, as a result she hit a fence. Danielle immediately stopped and spoke to the owner of the fence about making amends and fixing the damage.

Under this current fact pattern, Danielle cannot be found guilty of a Hit and Run because she stopped and spoke to the owners about making amends. Prosecutors will not be able to demonstrate that Danielle fled the scene , and therefore if Danielle is charged, the charges will have to be dismissed.

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California Penal Code §647 lays out the many different scenarios in which a person can be charged for lewd conduct under the Penal Code. Under this code section, the most common charge an be found under CP §647(f), which reads in pertinent part as follows:

“Who is found in any public place under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, controlled substance, or toluene, in a condition that he or she is unable to exercise care for his or her own safety or the safety of others, or by reason of his or her being under the influence of intoxicating liquor, any drug, controlled substance, toluene, or any combination of any intoxicating liquor, drug, or toluene, interferes with or obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way”

There are some very important components to this charge. The following must be present:

  1. They must not be able to exercise care for themselves or others and
  2. Obstruct or prevent the free use of any side walk or other public way, and
  3. This must be due to an intoxication of some type

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A person will be charged with a Hit and Run in Los Angeles when they have cause injury or damage to person or property, and fled the scene without leaving contact information. Both of these elements must be present prior to charged being filed. For example, if there was no injury or damage to person or property then there is no Hit and Run, even if the driver left no contact information. Accordingly, if there is damage or injury, and the person left contact information, it is not the criminal charge of Hit and Run.

If there is a Hit and Run, and charges could be filed against a person, there are certain strategies and steps that can be utilized to help alleviate potential charges or severity of consequences. The longer a person’s property sits damaged, or a person remains injured with mounting health bills, the angrier a person will be come and look for retaliation. Let’s consider an example to demonstrate this concept.

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A City Attorney Hearing is a good option to help dismiss potential charges against a person who is being charged with Domestic Violence. When a person has been arrested for having potentially committed a criminal offense, it is only an arrest, they have not yet been convicted or formally charged. The arresting officer will prepare a report on the arrest and the probable cause under which he arrested the person. Prosecutors will then review the report and determine if there is adequate evidence to take the matter to court and file formal charges. This is where a City Attorney Hearing can be very beneficial to a person being charged with Domestic Violence.

A City Attorney hearing is a hearing in which a person who may be charged appears at the prosecutors office to discuss the potential charges. Oftentimes the facts are unclear, or there is more information that needs to be sought for a prosecutor to make a determination on charges .Both the person potentially being charged and the victim will appear before the Prosecutor and will tell their side of the story. This will allow the Prosecutor to gather more information to help aid in making a determination of whether domestic violence charges should be filed.

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Unlike many offenses, a Hit and Run charge may be avoided completely if proper steps are taken soon after an arrest has been made.

When you are arrested for a Los Angeles Hit and Run, you have not yet been found guilty. The arresting officer will submit a report to the District Attorney, or City Attorney’s office. The relevant prosecutor will then review the facts and the evidence and will then make a determination if charges will be filed and a case will be started.

There are certain steps that can be taken after a person has been arrested and before formal charges have been brought that could potentially avoid any charges altogether.

An experienced Los Angeles Hit and Run lawyer is well versed in not only the steps to take to give a case the best possible chances of dismissal, but also knows the right people to contact to start the process.

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What causes people to feel the scene of an accident resulting in a Hit and Run charge?

The overall umbrella is fear. People are scared that they may suffer consequences on varying fields if they do not flee the scene. Some of these issues are minor in nature, and some are much bigger. Either way, being charged with a Hit and Run, especially with injury, is a much worse scenario than those feared by drivers who opt to flee the scene.

  1. Do not want a DUI

Many people flee the scene and do not stay to help administer help or leave contact information because they are driving while intoxicated and are afraid they will get charged with a Los Angeles DUI. If they are caught, and usually the driver is, they will not only be charged with a DUI, if it is within the adequate time period, they will also be charged with a Hit and Run.

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