Jun 18, 2020
| Read Time: 5 minutes
Were you arrested in San Diego County? If so, you may be wondering what happens next. After all, your freedom is on the line. You deserve to be informed of the San Diego County criminal trial process steps. Upon your San Diego County arrest, the police hopefully advised you of your right to an attorney. A criminal defense attorney is critical to ensuring that the criminal justice system treats you fairly. If you have not secured an attorney already, you must find one immediately. At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, we help hundreds of criminal defendants fight for their freedom. If you have experienced a San Diego County arrest, we would like to help you too. Contact us for a free consultation, and learn how our skilled criminal defense attorneys can make all the difference in your case. Different Phases of the Criminal Trial Process You should contact a San Diego County criminal defense attorney as soon as you have contact with the police. While the criminal trial process steps can stretch for months or years, you need an attorney to advise you through each of the following steps. Investigation When you are under investigation, law enforcement officers may contact you. Officers may present you with a search warrant to search your home or car. Authorities may also question other people and search their homes for evidence related to the crime. As soon as a law-enforcement officer contacts you, asks you questions, or requests to search your property, you should contact a San Diego County criminal defense attorney. Do not speak to the police without your attorney present. Arrest If a law-enforcement officer has probable cause that you have committed a crime, they can arrest you. A law-enforcement officer cannot usually enter your home to arrest you without an arrest warrant. After a San Diego County arrest, an officer must read you Miranda warnings if you are in custody and he or she is asking you questions pertaining to the allegations against you. The warnings are: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” This means you should immediately stop speaking. You should request an attorney and refuse to talk to the police until your attorney is present. You absolutely will not be able to “talk your way out of it” at this point, so refusing to speak to the arresting officer is the smart thing to do. If you need an experienced, award-winning criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, immediately. Booking When the police arrest you, they will handcuff you and take you to the police station for booking. They will take your photo and fingerprints, search you, and place you in a holding cell. In your cell, maintain your silence. Do not discuss anything related to your charge with officers, the jailer, or cellmates or by telephone. The phone numbers to various bail bond agencies will be posted on the wall of your holding cell. If you have someone to bail you out, call one of those companies to begin the process of bailing out of jail. Arraignment Within 48 hours of your arrest (excluding weekends and holidays), you must be arraigned. This means that you appear before a judge to hear the charges against you. You will enter a plea—guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Posting Bail After you have entered a plea at the arraignment, the judge will decide whether to set bail or to change the current bail amount (either upward or downward). The judge sets your bail amount depending on these factors: The severity of the crime, Your ties to the community, Your criminal record, and Whether you present a flight risk. The judge will set bail at a certain amount or may deny bail if your crime was severe or you are a flight risk. Pre-Trial Process Once you are out on bail, you will go through the pre-trial process. This process involves the following things: Conferences between attorneys, Filing waivers, Conducting discovery, Negotiations between attorneys, Hearings in court, and Filing motions. During the pre-trial process, many defendants enter a plea bargain to reduce their charges. This pre-trial process may involve at least two court appearances: the readiness conference and the preliminary hearing. Readiness conference At the readiness conference (sometimes called the felony disposition conference), the prosecutor may offer a reduced charge or sentence if you agree to plead guilty. If you do not accept the plea, your case continues on the pre-trial track toward trial. Preliminary hearing At the preliminary hearing, the judge must determine two things: Whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed, and Whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime. At this hearing, the judge may dismiss your charges or rule that you must answer to the charges. If the judge finds probable cause on both points, you will move toward trial. Trial If a plea bargain was unsuccessful, your case will go to trial. It can take many months (and sometimes a year or more) from arraignment to trial. You can select a bench trial or a jury trial, depending on which option seems the most favorable to your charge. Almost all defendants choose a jury trial because it takes twelve jurors to convict in a jury trial and only one judge to convict in a bench trial. In a trial, the prosecution will present evidence to convince the judge or jury that you committed the crime. Meanwhile, your attorney will cross-examine the prosecution witnesses and may present evidence to cast doubt on that theory. You do not have the burden to prove your innocence, because you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If your attorney can...
Jun 13, 2020
| Read Time: 3 minutes
Do you remember pulling teen pranks? Perhaps you and your friends egged houses or spray painted the school parking lot. Such stunts seem like mere mischief, but actions like these can bring vandalism charges in San Diego County, California. If you’ve been charged with vandalism, you need a skilled California criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our skilled attorneys will attempt to get your vandalism charges reduced or dismissed. Contact us right away to schedule a consultation regarding your vandalism defense. If you would like more information on vandalism convictions in San Diego County, keep reading. Elements of a Vandalism Charge: What the Prosecutor Must Prove The elements of vandalism seem simple, but they can come with harsh penalties. California law defines vandalism as maliciously committing these acts: Defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material, Damaging property, or Destroying property. The law defines graffiti or inscribed material as “any unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark, or design that is written, marked, etched, scratched, drawn, or painted on real or personal property.” To be convicted of vandalism, the offender must not own or have the owner’s permission to deface, damage, or destroy the property. The prosecution must prove each of these elements to convict you of vandalism. Meanwhile, your defense attorney will try to poke holes in the prosecution’s case by asserting all available defenses to the vandalism charge. What You Need to Know About Vandalism Charges in San Diego County You may find yourself facing a vandalism charge without even knowing that you exhibited criminal behavior. For instance, these scenarios may be considered vandalism in California: Throwing an object at your spouse and watching it shatter on the floor, Carving your initials into a park bench, Throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house, or Spray painting an abandoned railway car. California law also includes some interesting repercussions for vandalism offenders. In the above example, you could be charged with domestic violence along with vandalism when throwing an object at your spouse. Vandalism charges can even be upgraded to a felony iif the property damage was more than $400. These may seem like frightening consequences for what seemed a trivial action. California courts take vandalism charges seriously, but you don’t have to resign yourself to time in jail and a felony criminal record. An experienced San Diego County criminal defense attorney can try to get your vandalism charges reduced or dismissed. Immediately after a vandalism charge, you should contact a skilled attorney who will fight for your rights. Penal Code section 594: Misdemeanor Vandalism (less than $400) Under California law, when a vandalism offender causes less than $400 of property damage, the crime is a misdemeanor. This charge brings a penalty of: Up to a year in county jail, Up to a $1,000 fine, Restitution (repairing the damaged property), Up to a year of community service, and Counseling. If the offender has a previous conviction for vandalism, the penalty can increase to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000. Penal Code section 594: Felony Vandalism ($400 or more) If the property damage is $400 or more, the crime can be charged as felony vandalism. Felony vandalism convictions in this category are punishable by: Up to three years in prison (served via “local prison); Up to a $10,000 fine, Restitution (repairing the damaged property), Up to a year of community service, and Counseling. If the offender caused more than $10,000 in property damage, then the vandalism fine can go up to $50,000. Get Help from a California Vandalism Criminal Defense Attorney You may be worried about a vandalism charge. However, a vandalism charge doesn’t always result in a vandalism conviction. When you hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, you increase your chances of getting your vandalism charges reduced or dismissed. Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, for a consultation. Our award-winning attorneys have represented criminal defendants in more than 100 jury trials, securing many acquittals in a variety of cases, including vandalism cases. We offer passionate advocacy, emotional support, and confidentiality while we help you navigate the court system. Contact us today to start your defense against vandalism charges.
Jun 3, 2020
| Read Time: 2 minutes
When you drive under the influence, the consequences of that mistake can persist for years. A DUI can impact your life long after you pay your fine or spend time in jail. Even if you haven’t had a drink in years, you may not be able to get the job or housing you want because of your conviction. Does this seem fair to you? If it doesn’t, then we’ll explain how to get your DUI conviction dismissed. California law has an option called a dismissal for removing a DUI from your record. Since a DUI on your criminal record has consequences, courts sometimes allow you to erase the DUI after a certain time. Once you dismiss a DUI in California, you don’t have to disclose it when you apply for most jobs or when you apply for housing rentals. If this sounds like a great option for clearing your record, call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, to see if a dismissal is feasible for you. Please keep reading if you would like to know more about DUI dismissals in California before contacting our attorneys. Who Can Seek a Dismissal? Under California law, you are eligible for a dismissal once you complete probation for your offense if you: Did not serve time in state prison, or Served time in state prison, but your sentence was a county jail (also known as “local prison”) sentence under the 2011 prison realignment. For some criminal offenses, a judge might allow you to end probation and seek a dismissal early. However, judges do not usually allow early dismissals for DUI offenders except under exceptional circumstances. How Does a Dismissal Work? Once your probation successfully ends, you can request a dismissal of your case. In the dismissal process, the court allows you to: Withdraw your guilty or no contest plea, or Set aside a guilty verdict and enter a plea of not guilty. After the dismissal of your DUI conviction, the court dismisses the conviction against you for most purposes. For instance, a landlord running a background check would not see a record of a dismissed DUI and cannot hold your prior conviction against you. Can A Dismissed Offense Be Used Against You? A dismissed offense frees you to pursue career and housing options not available to someone with a DUI conviction. However, your DUI conviction can still be used against you in these circumstances: When seeking appointment or election to public office, For licensure by a state or local agency, For contracting with the California State Lottery Commission, To lawfully possess a firearm (if you DUI was a felony), and For reinstating a suspended driver license. Your dismissed offense will also count as a prior if you face another criminal conviction. While a dismissed offense can still impact you in some ways, you will enjoy greater freedom overall. Once you complete probation (or desire to get off of probation early), it is a good idea to contact a criminal defense attorney in San Diego County to get your DUI dismissed. Do You Need Help with a DUI Dismissal in California? A DUI conviction is too damaging to your future to leave it on your record. If you would like your DUI dismissed, the San Diego County criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, can help. Our San Diego County criminal defense lawyers have experience helping clients dismissing their DUI convictions. We will handle your case with discretion and complete confidentiality. Contact our office to schedule an initial consultation with a DUI attorney.