San Diego County Criminal Cases: What Are the Steps When You Are Arrested?

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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.


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.


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.


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.  


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. 


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 cast some uncertainty in the mind of the judge or jury, you could receive an acquittal. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury finds you guilty or not guilty if they can all reach a verdict.  If there is any split whatsoever in the voting, the judge will declare a mistrial and you could be tried all over again.. If you are found guilty, your attorney can file an appeal. 


If the jury finds you guilty on one or more counts, your sentencing follows. This will occur at least thirty days out on a felony case, although sentences for misdemeanor cases usually occur on the same date as the guilty verdict(s). 

A sentencing hearing allows both the prosecution and defense to present evidence regarding appropriate sentencing. Your attorney may present evidence of your community service, military service, overall good deeds, or other factors that support a lighter sentence. The prosecution may bring in the victim(s) to make impact statements. 

The judge will determine your sentence, including conditions for probation or parole. 

Contact a San Diego County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you need a criminal defense attorney. After your San Diego County arrest, you should call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, right away. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will help protect your rights and try to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

Contact our attorneys at the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, for a consultation. Our law firm has represented criminal defendants in well over 100 jury trials. We offer passionate advocacy, emotional support, and confidentiality while we help you navigate the court system. Contact us today to start your legal defense.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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