Two Arraignment Courts in San Fernando
When it comes to arraignments, you must know what's going on because this is your first appearance in court. A lot of people are nervous. They've never been through an arraignment before. Whether you're a family member or the person who has to appear in the arraignment court in San Fernando, it's kind of necessary from the beginning that you know the ropes for multiple reasons.
One, you don't want to make any mistakes that affect your rights; and two, it's a sense of calm when you know what's going to happen versus you don't know what's going to happen. That is stressful – not knowing exactly what's going to happen.
In San Fernando, there are two arraignment courts. They are both on the first floor of the court. You go through the metal detector and proceed straight. The first door on the left is Department S. In that department; they do all the felony arraignments.
So, if you have a felony case in the San Fernando Court, you're going to start in Department S. If you're in custody or your loved one is in custody, the Bailiff there should know when they're going to bring them into court.
If you proceed down the hallway, right before you get to the cafeteria on the left-hand side, there is Department M. They handle all of the misdemeanor cases in San Fernando, the arraignment. Even people in custody for misdemeanor cases are brought through Department M for their first court appearance.
At the arraignment, a criminal attorney has several choices. We can continue the arraignment if we think that's in your best interest. Sometimes I do that in both courts if I want an opportunity to try to negotiate with the prosecutors in that arraignment court before I move it into one of the other courts.
All we have to do is ask the judge to continue the arraignment, pick a date, make sure it works out for the court's calendar, and most of the time, the courts do not have a problem continuing the arraignment. When you get into difficulties, you're trying to continue the arraignment too often.
The courts do have a policy and are no different than they want to move their cases along as quick as possible, so they might get angry if you continue to try to continue the arraignment over and over again and tell you your client needs to enter a not guilty or a guilty plea and move this case out of this particular courtroom. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will explain further below.
Obtaining Discovery for the Prosecutor
As far as what happens at the arraignment and setting a new date, a defense attorney will be given all the discovery in the case from the prosecutor. You get an opportunity to review the discovery. The prosecutors usually aren't ready in that arraignment court to resolve cases, especially in Department S because they're just getting the case, especially if it's a new arraignment.
Department M, on the other hand, the misdemeanor arraignments, sometimes those cases are resolved at the first arraignment, so those prosecutors are going to be more prepared to discuss the case and see if it's something that can be resolved.
You can always resolve a case at the arraignment, it's just not usually because the defense attorney is typically just getting the paperwork on the case at the arraignment, so the defense attorney usually wants some time to review it go over it with the client, do any necessary investigation, file any necessary motions, and there's not enough time to do it at the arraignment, so a lot of times the case is continued for at least a couple of weeks to give the attorney the time to prepare for the case.
Judge Will Set Bail
Another thing that's done at the arraignment is the bail is set. There is a bail schedule that all the judges use, and in general, they're going to put the bail at the bail schedule – meaning they're going to set the bail at whatever bail the judges came up with when they decided to bail for each case. There are exceptions to this rule, and, as a defense attorney, you should try to get an OR report which is a report that assesses whether the person can be released on their own recognizance.
Sometimes, a bail commissioner will release the person on their recognizance before the arraignment. The two biggest things the judge will be looking at the arraignment is the person a flight risk? And is the person a danger to the community? If you can get over those two hurdles, you're in an excellent position to get the lowest possible bail at the arraignment for your client.
Setting a Future Court Date
After the bail is set and the court date is picked, you're typically going to be able to be moved out of the arraignment court and try to resolve your case from there – whether it be by way of a jury trial or whether it be by way of some negotiated plea agreement.
Another issue that comes up is that sometimes you get a case and need some information. Maybe there's a video missing; maybe some photos are missing, or maybe there's some other evidence that you can see should be in there as a defense attorney, and you're going to need to get that evidence.
That's one area where you're probably going to want to get the case out of the arraignment court because the prosecutors in that court are not prepared to start trying to look for stuff and do any work on the cases.
They're mainly interested in either resolving the case or moving it out of the arraignment court, so they're not going to make much work gathering discovery for you. Also, if you're going to file any motions, the arraignment court is usually not the place to do it. You will need to enter a not-guilty plea and move it out of there.
The judge there is not equipped to hear motions, and the prosecutors are not looking to listen to motions either. They're more interested in resolving the case or moving it out of the arraignment court in the San Fernando courthouse. Contact the Hedding Law Firm for help.