When you have been issued a citation upon arrest, you are ordered to appear in Court, on or before the date stated on the citation. This is not voluntary, or optional. It is a mandatory order and one subject to consequences if you fail to appear. The consequences will differ depending on the circumstances of your case, and whether you are represented by an attorney or not.
If you are represented by an attorney, and the charge against you is a misdemeanor, then the attorney can appear on your behalf under California Penal Code §977. If you are not physically in court, and only your attorney is, then there will be no consequences. You always have the option to appear, but oftentimes most negotiations are done between the attorneys. Attorneys are also not allowed to enter a plea on your behalf so you will not be pushed into a decision that you have not discussed and confirmed with the attorney.
Let’s walk through a typical arraignment where the party is represented. This is a general arraignment, and is not always the case.
The Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney appears in Court between 8:30 AM and 9:00 AM. Once the court room opens, he or she will go inside and inform the deputy of the case number and case name. Once the case has been called, the attorney will speak to the prosecutor and request discovery. Discovery is the arrest report, and other documents or audio visual exhibits that the government has in aiding the case. Once the attorney has the discovery, they will sit down in the attorney section and review the documents and the contents.
Upon a complete review, they will talk to the Prosecutor once again and ask what the plea bargain will be. The prosecutor will indicate their offer and the attorney will make note of it to discuss it with the client.
The attorney will then wait until the matter is called before the Judge. The Judge will then ask the attorney what they would like to do. Whether they would like to set the matter for Pre-Trial, enter a guilty plea, or accept the offer.
This is where the attorney has to use their knowledge and experience to make a decision. If the offer given by the Prosecutor is low, and worth consideration, the attorney will likely continue the matter so that they can discuss it with the client. In that situation, the attorney will ask the court for a short continuance so that may have some time to consider the offer.
If the offer is not a good one and the attorney knows they can get a better offer, they will enter a plea of not guilty and set for Pre-Trial, where a lengthy discussion may be had with the Prosecutor.
There are many benefits to having an attorney. Not only do you have someone who is familiar with the system arguing for you and advocating for your side, you also don’t have to deal with the stress and hassle of going to court.