The Felony Court Process
A felony case can be boiled down to four basic steps. The first
step is called an arraignment. At the arraignment, the Court
asks the defendant to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty”.
The Court does not consider whether the charges are true or
not true, and no evidence is presented. Prosecutors usually do
not participate in felony arraignments unless there are other
issues such as setting or modifying bail. At the arraignment the
Judge may set, lower or raise the bail amount. At the
arraignment, the Court will set a pre-preliminary hearing
conference and a preliminary hearing date. In accordance with
California Law, the preliminary hearing will be set within ten
(10) Court days of the arraignment, unless a waiver of the time
limit is taken.
After arraignment, the prosecution will usually issue subpoenas
for witnesses and victims to appear on the preliminary hearing
date. The prosecution issues subpoenas to a witness whenever
the prosecution will rely on a witness for testimony at the
preliminary hearing; the issuance of a subpoena does not mean
the preliminary hearing is more or less likely to happen, nor
does it reflect on the strength or weakness of the case. It is
simply a normal part of case preparation.
The next step is a pre-preliminary hearing conference. At this
stage the defense attorney and prosecutor discuss the case in
chambers with the judge. The defense may ask for
information and evidence from the prosecution, called
discovery. The attorneys and Court also try to negotiate a
resolution acceptable to both sides. Defendants do not
participate in the pre-preliminary hearing conference although
your personal appearance in Court is required. This stage of
the process gives the defense attorney all the evidence the
prosecution intends to use in the case, time to consider and
explore the evidence, and an opportunity to make efforts at
resolving the case.
The third step is the preliminary hearing. Many cases are
resolved prior to the preliminary hearing. In Burbank, if a
case cannot be resolved prior to the hearing, another attempt
will be made on the day of the hearing itself. If the case
cannot be settled the defense will announce “ready” for
preliminary hearing. Depending on prosecution readiness and
the availability of a courtroom, the preliminary hearing may be
heard sometime that day, or may be postponed until it can be
At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution must simply
present evidence that there is probable cause to believe that the
defendant committed the crime or crimes charged. California
criminal law permits the prosecutor to meet this burden by
calling only one law enforcement officer who investigated the
case. The prosecution does not have to prove the case beyond
a reasonable doubt at the preliminary hearing(that standard
only applies at trial). Therefore, it is usually not difficult for
the prosecution to “win” the preliminary hearing.
If the Court finds there is probable cause to believe the
defendant committed the charged offense, the defendant is
“bound over” for trial and the case is transferred to the Trial
Court(sometimes referred to as Superior Court). In Superior
Court, the defendant is once again
arraigned , the case is set for trial, and the case is ultimately
tried before a jury if no resolution is reached.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a felony in the
Burbank, Pasadena or Glendale Court, or any other venue in
Los Angeles County, contact our local lawyers for a free no
obligation case review.
California Courts can change the way the process felony cases,
be sure to consult a lawyer for specific info to your situation.
For more helpful advice, visit Matthew Ruff on the web and
read about how the judicial system handles criminal defendants
in more detail.
Matthew J. Ruff, Esq.
Toll Free at 1-877-617-4485