The criminal process in Los Angeles unfolds through a series of procedural steps beginning with an arrest and potentially culminating in a sentencing hearing, depending on the outcome of the trial. This process is designed to uphold justice while ensuring the rights of all parties involved are protected. The key stages include the arrest, arraignment, preliminary hearing, trial, and, if applicable, sentencing. Each step is governed by legal standards that ensure the proceedings are fair and that the accused has ample opportunities for defense.

Navigating the criminal justice system without legal expertise can jeopardize the outcome for the accused. Experienced legal representation is crucial throughout the criminal process. An attorney ensures that the accused’s rights are protected from the point of arrest, during formal charges, through trial, and even into sentencing if necessary. Lawyers skilled in criminal defense are adept at formulating strategies that can influence the course of the proceedings, challenge the prosecution’s case, and significantly affect the outcome. Legal representation is not just a right but a vital component of effective defense, potentially impacting the severity of the charges, the nature of the plea negotiations, and the overall progression of the case.

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    Arrest

    For an arrest to be lawful, law enforcement officers must have probable cause. This legal standard requires that the police have a reasonable basis to believe that a crime has been committed and that the individual they are arresting committed the crime. Probable cause must be based on factual evidence and not merely suspicion. This requirement is a fundamental protection against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

    The moments following an arrest are critical. Having a defense attorney present as soon as possible helps protect the rights of the accused. An attorney can ensure that law enforcement respects these rights during questioning and custody. Early legal intervention can influence the charges being filed, as a defense attorney may be able to present evidence or arguments that reduce the severity of charges or prevent charges from being filed altogether. Additionally, a defense attorney can begin forming a strategy for defense based on the circumstances of the arrest and the evidence available.

    Arraignment

    An arraignment is the first court appearance for a defendant. During this proceeding, the judge formally charges the defendant with the crime and reads them their rights. The primary purpose of the arraignment is to ensure that the defendant understands the charges they face and the rights they possess under the law, including the right to legal representation, the right to plead not guilty, and the right to a trial by jury.

    At the arraignment, the judge informs the defendant of several fundamental rights, including:

    • The right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination.
    • The right to legal representation. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed by the court.
    • The right to a fair and speedy trial by jury.

    Plea Options and Their Consequences

    During the arraignment, the defendant is also asked to enter a plea in response to the charges. The available pleas are:

    • Guilty: The defendant admits to the crime and accepts responsibility, which typically leads to sentencing.
    • No Contest (Nolo Contendere): The defendant does not contest the charges, which has a similar legal effect to a guilty plea but does not admit guilt explicitly.
    • Not Guilty: The defendant denies the charges, which leads to the scheduling of a trial where the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Preliminary Hearing (Felony Cases)

    In felony cases, a preliminary hearing serves as a critical checkpoint to determine if there is enough evidence to justify a trial. This hearing allows the judge to assess whether sufficient evidence exists to support the charges brought against the defendant. It is procedural and occurs before a trial to ensure that only cases with probable cause proceed to the next legal step.

    At the preliminary hearing, the defense attorney has the opportunity to counter the prosecution’s evidence. The defense can question the credibility of evidence, cross-examine prosecution witnesses, and identify legal flaws in the case. This is a vital opportunity for the defense to weaken the prosecution’s position, potentially leading to reduced charges or even dismissal of the case.

    Trial Phase

    The prosecution carries the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in the trial phase. This standard requires that the evidence presented by the prosecution must leave no reasonable doubt in the mind of a rational person regarding the defendant’s guilt.

    The judge manages the legal process during the trial, ensuring that the proceedings follow legal standards and both parties’ rights are respected. The jury evaluates the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense. Their job is to consider the facts and determine whether the evidence meets the standard of proof required for a conviction.

    The defense attorney’s role is to present the defendant’s case effectively and challenge the prosecution’s claims. This involves questioning the strength and validity of the prosecution’s evidence, providing alternative interpretations of the evidence, and ensuring that the defendant’s rights are maintained throughout the trial process. The goal is to create enough doubt in the minds of the jury to avoid a conviction.

    Sentencing Phase

    After a guilty verdict is reached, the criminal process moves into the sentencing phase. This is where the court determines the appropriate penalty for the convicted individual. The sentencing hearing is typically scheduled shortly after the verdict and provides an opportunity for both the defense and the prosecution to present arguments regarding the severity of the sentence.

    During the sentencing hearing, the defense attorney plays a crucial role in advocating for a lenient sentence for their client. This includes presenting mitigating factors such as the defendant’s background, lack of prior criminal history, the circumstances surrounding the crime, and any signs of remorse shown by the defendant. The defense may also introduce character witnesses and other testimonials to aid in portraying the defendant in a more favorable light. The goal is to influence the judge’s decision, aiming for reduced penalties or alternative sentencing that might include probation or community service instead of jail time.

    Contact a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

    Los Angeles Criminal LawyerFacing criminal charges requires a knowledgeable and straightforward defense strategy. Attorney Arash Hashemi brings over twenty years of experience in criminal defense to each case, focusing on achieving clear outcomes.

    Our office is located in the Westside Towers of Los Angeles, accessible from Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Westwood, near the Expo/Bundy Station. We offer flexible scheduling, including weekend appointments and jail visits, to meet your needs.

    For a consultation and to discuss your defense options, contact The Law Offices of Arash Hashemi at (310) 448-1529 or schedule a consultation. We’re here to provide the legal support you need throughout your case.

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