If you have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense in San Diego you should have been given a court date for the near future. Typically this date will be for your arraignment. People often make the mistake of waiting to hire an attorney until after their initial court appearance. There are several reasons, however, why you should understand the San Diego criminal court process and hire a lawyer before you have a court date.
San Diego Criminal Court Process
One reason people don’t hire an attorney before their initial court appearance is because they assume that nothing important happens at the first court date. That is not necessarily the case. If you are still in custody at the time of your first appearance, meaning you were unable to make bail, your initial appearance is an opportunity to ask the judge to reduce your bail or to request a formal bail hearing. While you can do either of these without an attorney your chances of success are clearly higher if you have an attorney representing you. An attorney understands what a judge is allowed to consider when setting a bail amount and knows how to present the defendant in the most positive light with regard to those factors. Therefore, it is best to have counsel with you at your first court date if you are still in custody.
Even if you already made bail prior to your initial appearance in court, there are still a number of reasons why it is best to hire a lawyer before your court date. Once you have retained counsel the prosecutor is not allowed to communicate directly with you. Instead, the prosecutor must go through your attorney. Unless you are a veteran of the criminal court system your arraignment can be intimidating. It can be even more intimidating if the prosecutor attempts to speak to you directly about a plea agreement or anything else related to the case, yet that can happen if you do not have an attorney with you. People frequently make the mistake of accepting a plea agreement at their first court appearance because they are talked into it by the prosecutor – only to realize later that it was not in their best interest to do so.
Finally, important documents could be discussed or exchanged at your initial court appearance. Some documents, such as motions, are time sensitive, meaning you only have a specific amount of time to file an official response to the motion. Without a lawyer with you to review these documents and explain their importance you could miss a deadline or inadvertently do something to harm your defense.
For all of these reasons it is best to at least consult with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney prior to your first court date.