When it comes to arraignments, it’s important that you know what’s going on because this is your first appearance in the 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 important 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 really 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 San Fernando courthouse you’re going to end up starting in Department S. If you’re in custody or if you’re 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 who are in custody for misdemeanor cases are brought through Department M for their first court appearance.
At the arraignment, an attorney has a number of 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 moved it into one of the other courts in the San Fernando courthouse. 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 times, the courts do not have a problem continuing the arraignment.
When you get into problems is when you’re trying to continue the arraignment too many times. The courts do have a policy and San Fernando is no different, that 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.
As far as what happens at the arraignment in addition to setting a new date, a defense attorney is going to be given all the discovery in the case from the San Fernando 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 as well, especially if it’s a new arraignment. Department M on the other hand, the misdemeanor arraignments, sometimes those cases are actually 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 usual because the defense attorney is typically just getting the paperwork on the case at the arraignment in San Fernando, so the defense attorney usually wants some time to review it, go over it with the client, do any investigation that’s necessary, file any motions that are necessary, and there’s just 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.
Another thing that’s done at the arraignment in the San Fernando court is the bail is set. There is a bail schedule that all the San Fernando judges use and in general, they’re going to set 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 bails for each case. There are exceptions to this rule and basically, 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 there’s a bail commissioner before the arraignment in San Fernando that will release the person on their own recognizance, and obviously the two biggest things the judge is going to be looking at the arraignment in San Fernando is, is the person a flight risk? And is the person a danger to the community. If you can get over those two hurdles then you’re in a good position to get the lowest possible bail at the arraignment for your client.
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 sort of a negotiated plea agreement. Another issue that comes up in the San Fernando arraignment court is sometimes you get a case and you need some information. Maybe there’s a video missing; maybe there are some photos 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 really not going to be prepared to start trying to look for stuff and do any type of work on the cases. They’re mainly just interested in either resolving the case or moving it out of the arraignment court in San Fernando, so they’re not going to do much work as far as 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’re going to need to enter a not-guilty plea and move it out of there.
The judge there is not really equipped to hear motions and the prosecutors are not looking to hear motions either. They’re more interested either resolving the case or moving it out of the arraignment court in the San Fernando courthouse.
For more information on San Fernando Court Arraignment, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (213) 542-0940 today.