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California Process

Jeffrey Schwartz is an Arcata Attorney practicing primarily in Humboldt and Mendocino County.  As a former senior Humboldt County prosecutor and serving as a Eureka Attorney and Garberville, Ukiah Lawyer, Mr. Schwartz is very knowledgeable about his opponents.  With over 20 years of California Criminal Defense Attorney experience, Jeffrey Schwartz has successfully defended hundreds of clients.

Pre-file Situation

Often the police will contact you prior to filing a case against you. If the police contact you, you must call a lawyer and refuse to talk to the police—this is your constitutional right. Often, if the police want to talk to you before making an arrest, it means they don’t have a case. There is nothing you can say that will help your case other than “I want to talk to a lawyer.” Even if the police say they are going to arrest you unless you talk, do not talk with them, get yourself a lawyer.

This stage is called the “pre-file” stage. A criminal defense attorney often can provide the District Attorney's office with information that will convince them not to file a charge against you. Many times it is the defendant who sinks his or her own case by talking to the police before getting a lawyer.

Remain Silent

Should you cooperate with police?

Police will tell you that you don’t need to talk.
That you have a right to a lawyer even if you can’t afford one.
But then they will advise you to cooperate with them.
What should you do? Don’t be fooled.
Never talk to a police officer until you’ve talked to a lawyer.

Bail or Release from Jail

Will you get bail?

If you are accused of any crime short of capital murder you are entitled to reasonable bail.
In some cases a judge will let you out on your own recognizance.
That means that you promise to return without having to post bail.
But the judge determines how high your bail will be, and that could depend on your criminal record. 
You need a lawyer who can get you the best bail terms possible.



This is usually the first court appearance in your case where you learn about what the exact charges are against you. At that hearing the judge may consider a bail/OR motion or will set a bail/OR motion at an early date. The judge will also set pretrial dates and trial dates . If you don't have a lawyer the court will give you an opportunity to find one. This is your absolute right! Don’t let a judge bully you into thinking you must accept any lawyer right away. Ask for a continuance to find a lawyer. You have a right to the lawyer of your choice and a right to have time to find that lawyer. Insist on it.


Your Not Guilty Plea

At the arraignment is the time that you, with a lawyer, will plead not guilty virtually every time.  Guilty is a legal term. While you may have committed the act, it does not mean you are guilty by law. For example, if a person kills someone, is he or she guilty of murder? Maybe the killing was in self-defense, or in the heat of the moment (manslaughter). The same applies to most offenses.  The complexities and subtleties of the law and the meaning of guilt are so broad there is rarely a time that you should think you are guilty of the crime charged until the facts are analyzed with a competent and experienced lawyer. Even if you are guilty and the prosecutor can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, you still would want the least amount of punishment; that is not going to happen without a competent lawyer.


Dismissal or Reduction of Charges

Once a case is filed it is the goal of a competent attorney to get your charges dismissed; if not dismissed then to get the charges reduced. This is called the plea bargaining process. There are numerous reasons why this can happen, from a motion to suppress evidence that was illegally seized to a violation of your Miranda rights, to the lack of significant evidence. Often charges are dismissed based on your attorney convincing the prosecutor that the case is too weak to take to trial. Remember the prosecution must prove you did the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to twelve jurors who all must agree. If the attorney can show the prosecutor that the facts do not support a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt, the case can get dismissed. Often if the case is not dismissed your attorney can often convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges to a lesser offense. This is a critical stage of the case.  



You never want to go to trial with an inexperienced trial lawyer. The prosecutor knows ahead of time how good your lawyer is. The prosecutor considers that fact when trying to plea bargain or considering dismissing a case.  While the odds are you won’t go to trial, you’ll never get the best deal without having a really good trial lawyer ready and willing to go to trial if necessary. 

When your life is on the line, you better have yourself a very good trial lawyer.  Remember you have the right to the lawyer of your choice, but late in the process the court can deny your request if it is a last-minute request. If you are not satisfied with your lawyer or your family finally comes up with money to pay a good lawyer, you can ask the judge to allow you to switch lawyers. 



Licensed to Practice in the United States Supreme Court, California Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all state trial and appellate courts, the United States District Court of California, Northern, Eastern and Central Districts. Member of the California Supreme Court Death Penalty Appeals/Habeas panels.

637 F Street, Arcata, CA 95521

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