A primer in Criminal Procedure

I thought it might be helpful to explain the process for this next week.

There are two dates set for the accused. The first, on May 16th at 10 am, is called the preliminary hearing calendar call. This is the opportunity for all the parties to meet and make sure they are ready to proceed to preliminary hearing. The defense attorneys will be making sure that they have all the discovery – police reports, etc. to which they are entitled. They will either be telling the court whether they will be ready to proceed on Friday, or be asking for additional time to prepare. The Deputy District Attorney will be sharing any supplemental reports they have received from the various agencies and letting the court know if their witnesses will be available, and whether they will be ready to proceed. This is typically also the time when initial plea bargaining discussion occur.

A Preliminary Hearing has become rather pro forma. Because these are felony charges, the DA must simply establish whether there is probable cause to believe a crime or crimes have been committed and that these defendants probably committed them. It is a very low standard that has little to do with guilt or innocence. Since the passage of Prop 115 (I think is the number), the state no longer has to put on many of the actual witnesses. The investigating officer is allowed to relate to the court what these witnesses told him, and presumably what they will testify to. It will be the first opportunity the public has to hear what facts the state has. Generally, the defense puts on little testimony, and certainly, none of the defendants will be put on the stand at this point. They can, but most attorneys will not let that happen. There is no advantage to it. There may be one defense witness, we will see, and I will be there to report. It is possible, but unlikely, that if the evidence presented is considerably less than what is charged, then bail might be reduced. I think it is unlikely that there will be a reduction, considering what the DA said about the witness.

I hope this short primer is helpful to understand what may happen next week.