A lot of times criminal cases can take some time and people who are charged with crimes end up waiting in court the whole day. Where I usually see this is on an arraignment, especially a felony. Sometimes, believe it or not, the police just walked the paperwork into the prosecutor’s office on the day of the court in San Fernando. If that happens, especially after a weekend or even a holiday, the prosecutors are going to have a whole stack of cases sitting there that they have to go through, and even sometimes the detectives get in there late so you end up sitting around the whole day.
Every time I do a high-profile case in the San Fernando courthouse, I end up pretty much sitting there the whole day because those detectives either come in late in the morning or even sometimes in the afternoon, and if it’s a high-profile case with a lot of stuff going on – a lot of times they don’t even have the paperwork ready for the defendant in the San Fernando courthouse until sometime in the afternoon. Then I have to review it, prepare my argument for bail and then we end up calling the case and doing it, but a lot of times that’s late in the afternoon.
In the average case, if it’s an arraignment and it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, you usually should, if you have a private lawyer, be able to get out of there pretty quick – probably by 10:00 or 10:30. If you have the public defender on the other hand, they are sometimes very busy. They have a lot of stuff going on. Sometimes they’re short-handed. So, under those circumstances, you can end up being in court for quite some time. So, it really just depends on the circumstances. When I do preliminary hearings in Department G in the San Fernando courthouse, a lot of times that can take the whole day as well because the prosecutors are waiting for their witnesses to get there. They have to prepare. You would think they would prepare the case either the day before or early in the morning before the court starts but that’s not what they do. They wait until all the witnesses get there and then depending on who arrives at what time, they start interviewing them then.
Meanwhile, as a defense attorney in San Fernando, I’m coming in ready to go. I’ve already reviewed everything. Got my questions together. Talked to my client. But the prosecutors aren’t getting paid any extra money to get there early and be able to go on their San Fernando criminal cases. So, a preliminary hearing is another area where you can expect to be in the San Fernando courthouse for quite some time.
Another area that takes some time is a jury trial. Because of court crowding in San Fernando and throughout Los Angeles County, jury trials can take some time. Sometimes there’re not enough courts open, so what they do is send it to a court but that judge will have his or her calendar for the day, so they won’t even be able to start their jury trial until 10:30, and of course, they’re going to take a lunch break from 12:00 to 1:45. So, under those circumstances, you’re getting very limited trial time. So, sometimes trials take a long time in the San Fernando courthouse. Depending on what judge you get in front of, how busy that judge is – it’s very rare that you’re just going to get sent to a trial court and all the court is going to do is our trial. They’re going to have other responsibilities. They’re going to have to rule on motions. They’re going to have to do preliminary hearings if they’re available and anybody needs them to do it. They’re going to have to run their daily calendar in the San Fernando courthouse.
So, as a criminal defense attorney, I have an idea, depending on who the judge is, what the case is and what’s going on – whether or not we’re going to be there for a while, and obviously, I usually let me clients know.
As far as doing quick matters in the San Fernando court, generally just a run-of-the-mill arraignment or a pre-trial where you’ve already been to court – those are going to be relatively quick. As soon as your lawyer gets there – especially private lawyers – the San Fernando judges will usually give them priority and you should be in and out of there pretty quick.
So, if you’re thinking about how long you will be in court – you have things to do, you have to work, you have appointments – the best person to ask and to gauge that is your criminal defense attorney. I tell my clients all the time. I give them an idea of how quick we’ll be out of there. Of course, I take little notes so that if I have a client that has to get to their job, I can get in there quick and basically tell the judge that I have to get out of there quick and we get the client out of there quickly. So, it really depends on what the court proceeding is in San Fernando as to how quick you’re going to be able to get out of that courthouse as a defendant, who your attorney is – whether you have the public defender or a private attorney, and you also have to coordinate with your attorney. Let him know what’s going on with you. Let him know why you have to get out of there.
San Fernando is one of my favorite courthouses in Los Angeles County. The judges and prosecutors are actually very reasonable there and they will work with the defense lawyers, as long as the defense lawyers are professional, have some local experience in the San Fernando court and knows what they’re doing when it comes to the defense of a criminal defense case.
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