If you were arrested for a field arrest (a new crime) not a warrant or violation of probation or parole the next step is preparing to go to court for your arraignment. For a misdemeanor and you bailed out of jail the arraignment will be in about 6 weeks. Arrested for a felony and you bailed out of jail the arraignment will be in about a week. The court schedule fluctuates depending on court holidays. For the inmates unable to bail out of jail the arraignment will be within 72 court in session hours in most cases. For inmates still in custody go to the Sheriff’s website and view the page for your loved one. http://apps.sdsheriff.net/wij/wij.aspx at the bottom of the page you will see when the inmate is scheduled for court. This information is updated in the evening after each court appearance.
For those of you out on bail and waiting for your arraignment keep reading. The example I’m going to use is for the person arrested for a misdemeanor DUI. The question of hiring your own attorney or using the Public Defender is a decision you have to make yourself. You have the time to find your own attorney if you can afford one. Use the Internet to your advantage and try to find an attorney that handles criminal defense cases. Use the Search Engines and take advantage of websites that have customer reviews. Read what others have said and decide for yourself. What’s the advantage of getting your own attorney? Here’s 3 reasons why you might want to consider hiring your own attorney if you can afford one.
1. The choice of the attorney is made by you. If you use the Public Defender the one assigned to your courtroom will be your legal representation for that day.
2. If you hire your own attorney you will meet with them days or weeks before your first court appearance. If you use the Public Defender you will meet with them the day of your arraignment for a short period of time.
3. For misdemeanor arraignments in most cases the private attorney you hire makes the appearance for you and you do not need to be present. If you elect to use the Public Defender you must be present for the arraignment.
What about the people who can’t afford their own attorney? The court will have an assigned Public Defender that will represent you at your arraignment.
Let’s start at the beginning for those of you that need to go to court. First you need to get to the court. Hopefully you’ve done your homework and you have directions to the court. If your driver’s license was suspended and you cannot legally drive to the court……DON’T. We have several courts (El Cajon and South Bay) that are known for doing Check Points outside the court stopping vehicles to check for a current driver’s license. Many people have been arrested outside the court and never made it inside for their court appearance. And their vehicles were towed. If you don’t have a valid driver’s license get a ride. Take public transportation. Walk. Ride a bike. Spend the night in a hotel within walking distance to the court so you can walk to court in the morning. You would be surprised how many people get re-arrested for driving on a suspended license. Ok, you’ve got a way to the court. Parking. Do not park at a parking meter. You will be at the court more than 2 hours. In most cases parking meters in San Diego only go 2 hours. Go to a parking lot where you pay a flat fee or by the hour. The fee will be cheaper than a parking ticket in San Diego. Do not park illegally or your car will be towed. If you were arrested for a DUI you know this drill. It’s expensive and not fun. Alright. You made it to the court and you’re on time. Don’t be late. Judges hate when defendants are late. If you miss your court appearance for any reason other than the following:
1. You were in Jail.
2. You were in the Hospital.
3. You were Dead.
Your bond will forfeit and a warrant will be issued for your arrest. This will trigger your Bail Agent to start looking for you. Do you really want Dog the Bounty Hunter coming after you? The bail amount will increase and you can bet the judge will be very unhappy when you go before him/her after this Failure to Appear. Now that you know the consequences of missing court you’ll make sure you get to court on time. When you arrive at the court you will go through the same type of check in like the airport with TSA. In this case the people checking you are sworn officers and they have the power to arrest you. Do not come to court with anything illegal. For example knives, illegal drugs or prescription drugs that aren’t in the bottle you got from the pharmacy. You will empty your pockets and go through a metal detector. Next you will need to check in. For San Diego Superior Court you will need to check in at the Business Office on the first floor on the west side of the building, Room 1001. Sign in and tell the clerk why you’re at the court. If your case is going to be filed you will be given a set of documents to complete. The document you need to complete if you’re using the Public Defender is the Financial Declaration. San Diego County wants to know exactly where you keep your money. You will be signing this document under penalty of perjury so do not misrepresent your income or expenses. Click on this link and print out the form prior to going to your arraignment. Go through all your monthly income and expenses and bring the completed form to court so all you need to do is transfer this information onto their form. Nothing is FREE from this point forward as you may have already figured out.
Next you will go to the assigned courtroom for your arraignment. At San Diego Superior Court you will sit outside the Dept 1 courtroom located on the first floor near the entrance/exit until the deputy instructs you to come into the court. A Public Defender will call your name and take you outside the courtroom and meet with you in a cubicle. The Public Defender will talk to you about your case. With a DUI, the Public Defender will have the BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) evidence the day of your arraignment. In the State of California it’s illegal to drive with a BAC of .08% or more if you’re 21 years old or older. If you’re under 21 years old having a BAC .01% or more is illegal. The Public Defender will discuss your case and together you will decide how to proceed. The Public Defender will speak on your behalf once your name is called inside the courtroom. Before you leave the court make sure you have a copy of your court documents. If you leave the court without your court documents its like you were never there and your bond will forfeit and a warrant will be issued for your arrest. Always make sure you have documentation of all court appearances. If you pleaded Not Guilty there will be future court appearances on your court document. If you pleaded Guilty you will need to check in at the Business Office again in Room 1001 to make arrangements for paying any fines and finding out where you’ll need to sign up for classes if required. The court gives you a set amount of time to sign up for classes and complete them. Missing the deadlines for signing up for classes could result in a warrant for your arrest. Another opportunity to go before the judge and explain why you didn’t think it was important to follow court orders. Completing the classes in the time frame you were given works the same way. If you fail to complete your classes in the allotted time a warrant could be issued for your arrest. To check and see if you ever have a warrant for your arrest in San Diego County click on this link: http://apps.sdsheriff.net/warrant/waar.aspx
If you have a warrant for your arrest call me right away and I can post a bond to clear the warrant and get you back on calendar for the court. Don’t be surprised if you hear a knock on your door at 7am by Sheriff’s deputies when you have an active warrant. I’ve bailed out several people in their PJ’s and boxer shorts because the deputies don’t allow you go shower and dress for going to jail. They take you as they see you. No matter what you’re wearing or not wearing. I even bailed out a gentlemen in a bathrobe. That was all he was wearing. This isn’t meant to humor you. Failing to complete something you were ordered to do is serious and if you don’t want to go back to jail make sure you do exactly what the court orders on their timetable.
What about paying fines? For DUI’s the fines are pretty steep. Most people need to make payments for their fines. The County of San Diego is more than willing to set up a monthly payment schedule for you. Making payments online click on this link:
WARNING…..The County of San Diego doesn’t have a Collections Dept. A late or missed payment will lead to the push of the button………WARRANT FOR YOUR ARREST. Yep…….another opportunity to go to jail and explain to the judge why you didn’t’ think it was important to make your monthly payment on time. The bail amount could be double or more than your first arrest. Like $5,000 or $10,000 depending on how many times you screw up. If you don’t have the money to bail out its going to be a very long 3 to 5 days before you go before the judge again. Murphy’s Law its going to be the same judge each time. So if you agree to making payments for your fines, court costs (the fee for the Public Defender because contrary to what you thought they’re not free) and any additional penalties, make sure you make your payments on time. Repeatedly missing payments, failing to complete classes in a timely fashion or failing to complete your community service will lead you back to see the judge. Which usually means a warrant was issued for your arrest and you’re going before the judge in custody or out on bond again. The chorus to this song is always going to be the same. Warrant for your arrest if you make any mistakes along the way. Once arrested the door to the jail can become revolving if you don’t take this seriously and do exactly what the court orders in the time given. If you know you can’t make a payment or sign up for a class because you don’t have the money the answer is call your attorney or Public Defender so they can request an extension for you. In most cases the judge will extend your time to complete classes or pay fines. Failing to pay the fines and attend the classes without even trying to get help is the worst thing you can do in this situation. The judges in San Diego County understand we’re in some very difficult economic times and they’re willing to work with you if you’re willing to come forward and ask for help.
For those of you that pled not guilty and have future court appearances make sure you arrive on time and check in at the assigned courtroom. You will have an assigned Public Defender that will be at the court for each of your scheduled appearances. Make sure you never leave the court without the court documents since this is your only proof you were there and you didn’t miss a court appearance. Your case number, charges and future court dates can be found on this document. Secure your court documents in a file. If you retained your own attorney they will advise you throughout your case.
I hope this information was helpful for those arrested with misdemeanor DUI’s in San Diego County. This doesn’t have to be a revolving door to the jails and courts if you do exactly what you’re told to do in the time you’ve been given. Set up a file with your court documents and write down the timeline you have for signing up for classes, completing them and the payment schedule you agreed to with the court. If you stay organized you can avoid the sand traps and make your way down the fairway. Good luck.
In future chapters I will cover other types of court appearances.
Click on this link for information regarding DUI classes and where to sign up:
Related YouTube Video:
http://youtu.be/DB9WxnfBILU Emily’s Story. Arrested for 2 DUI’s.