Preparing for your first San Diego court date can be a nerve-racking experience! Here are five tried and true tips on how to be and feel ready for your arraignment!
1. Call the District Attorney (D.A.) to see what Charges they are Filing
The charges for which the police arrested you may not be the same charges the D.A. files against you. After reviewing the police report, the D.A. may choose to file more charges, fewer charges, or different charges. This is because the police only need probable cause to make an arrest, while a D.A. has a burden of proving a case beyond a reasonable double.
In many Domestic Violence cases, for example, police arrest individuals on felony charges. At the arraignment, however, some individuals feel relief when they discover the D.A. only filed misdemeanor charges. In some other cases, the District Attorney may decide not to file altogether!
Finding out the actual charges filed will prepare you mentally for what to expect in court. You can call the different branch locations at the following numbers:
Downtown/Central: (619) 531-4040
El Cajon/East County: (619) 441-4588
Chula Vista/South Bay: (619) 498-5650
Vista/North County: (760) 806-4004
Juvenile: (858) 694-4250
Pro Tip: Remember that anything you say about your case can be used against you! Be careful if discussing any specifics about your case!
2. Compare your Bail Amount to the San Diego Bail Schedule.
San Diego has a set bail schedule for different offenses. The bail schedule provides a guide for judges to follow when determining the bail in each case. A judge can either set bail according to the recommended schedule or can raise or lower the bail. The judge’s decision is based on various factors in the case. Checking the bail schedule and comparing it to what you paid is a great indicator of what the judge will do in court. This is especially helpful if you have called the D.A. and know the exact charges you face.
If you paid more than the bail schedule, the judge may not increase your bail at all. If you paid much less than the schedule, then you may wish to make arrangements in the event you are taken to jail.
Pro Tip: If you are on probation for another case, be prepared for the judge to remand you in that case. This means the judge will not allow you to post a bond in your probation case. This means you will have to wait in the jail while you resolve your new case.
3. Recruit the Support of Family and Friends
Having family and friends in court to support you can make a big difference. In some cases, their presence will not make a difference. This may be true if you have no criminal record and your charges are very minor. In many cases, however, this support can make the difference in whether you fight your case in or out of the jail.
One of the things the court is determining when setting bail is if you are a danger to the community or a flight risk. In other words, the judge wants to know you are going to be responsible and come back to court. If you have a lot of community support in San Diego the judge can be confident you will not flee the county or state.
Pro Tip: If you have a job, why not bring proof of your employment? A job shows the court you are responsible and committed to San Diego. See if your boss will write a letter on their letterhead to show proof of your employment.
4. Plan Ahead and Make Sure You Are On Time
If you miss your court date a warrant will issue for your arrest! If you arrive at court = late, the judge may worry you are not making your charges a priority. Having a court date is stressful enough- there is no need to compound your stress!
Make sure you know which courthouse and courtroom to go to. If you are relying on public transportation, plan your route in the week and days ahead. If you need a ride, secure one in advance. It is wise to find a backup as well.
5. Wear Appropriate Clothes and Pick out Your Outfit The Day Before
All the judge will know about you is that the D.A. charged you with a crime. Make a good first impression by looking your best. Show respect for the court and the court will treat you well in return. While you do not have to wear your fanciest clothes, dress the way you would for an important event. What would you wear for an interview or a religious ceremony? Make sure you and your clothes are clean!
Pro Tip: Court is not the place to make a fashion statement. Choose a conservative look over a trendy one.
If you want to know how to prepare for your particular charges and what exactly to expect for your particular case, set up Legal Coaching session today!