The Legal Process / Your Case in Court
At the Law Office of Jennifer Zide, we are happy to meet with you in advance of your first court date to talk to you about the facts of your case and what you can expect in court, free of charge. We provide the following overview of the steps in the legal process to give you an idea of what you can expect in court. At the Law Office of Jennifer Zide, we believe in standing by you every step of the way. Please feel free to call us if you have any questions.
The First Step: Your Arraignment
The citation given to you by the officer includes a court date at which time you must appear to address your case. This first stage of the legal process is called an “arraignment”. At the arraignment stage, you will hear the charges against you and will have an opportunity to obtain what is called “discovery”, including your police report, from the District Attorney. If you wish to consult with an attorney, you will want to tell the court at your first court appearance that you would like time to hire counsel. If the police report is available, ask to obtain a copy of the report from the prosecutor who is present in the courtroom. You will then be armed with all the information that the prosecution will try to use against you.
Reviewing the police report with an attorney who is committed to exposing the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case is an important first step toward protecting your rights in the system. At the Law Office of Jennifer Zide, we will gladly review your police report with you free of charge, discuss your options, and help guide you through the legal process.
Beyond the arraignment there are several other stages in the legal process, from continued arraignment, a point at which you may resolve your case if you choose, to jury trial. You may continue your arraignment to have time to fully discuss your case and all your possible options with an attorney. The most important thing is that you never feel rushed or forced to do anything in court that you are not ready to do. With your DUI attorney, you should discuss the standard sentence, make a plan to get you a better offer, and fully explore the potential upside and downside of proceeding further in the process. For example, although the arraignment stage is often the stage where you can expect the best offer in a DUI case, it is possible, based on the unique facts of your case, that a better resolution may be had further down the line. Different counties, such as Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, also have different stages in the process. For example, Santa Barbara offers a pre-trial conference for DUI cases where it is possible, based on the facts of your individual case, to obtain a more favorable resolution than in the arraignment court. Counties such as Los Angeles County and Santa Barbara County also offer a reduced charge called a “wet reckless” which may allow you to avoid a DUI conviction in a case where your alleged blood alcohol level is very close to the legal limit. With every case, there are unique factors at play that may affect the outcome at different stages. To make sure that you fully protect your rights and get the best possible outcome, we advise that you do not take any action before consulting with an attorney.
If, after consulting with an attorney regarding all the facts of your case, fully evaluating your police report, and potentially consulting with a forensic toxicology expert, you wish to proceed to trial, the burden will be on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were either driving with a blood alcohol level at .08 or greater or while under the influence so that your ability to drive was actually impaired. In a jury trial, evidence will be brought against you by the prosecutor, relying heavily on the alleged facts and the police officer’s report, the testimony of the state’s forensic toxicologist regarding your test results, and any testimony that can be offered by important witnesses in the case. Twelve members of the community will use their individual judgment and hear all the evidence before them before reaching conclusion as to whether the prosecutor has met his or her burden of proof in your case.
The defense’s job is to undermine the validity of the evidence brought against you and to point out all the areas of reasonable doubt in your case. Another important role of your defense attorney is to make sure that the jurors truly understand and accept that, as you sit before them that day, you are an innocent person unless the prosecutor proves otherwise. This is known as the Presumption of Innocence. The requirement that the state produce evidence against you and that that evidence rise to a very high level of proof is called Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
In our country, we require proof beyond a reasonable doubt because we value the individual, his or her rights, and his or her potential. In cases where the state is intruding on individual freedoms or restraining a person’s liberty, or bringing its full weight to bear in the prosecution of the individual, it is vital that the individual’s rights be respected and protected.
Proof Beyond A Reasonable Doubt
The proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard is a very high standard. It does not require proof beyond all doubt, as almost everything in life is open to some doubt. However, Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt does demand proof to such a high degree of certainty that a reasonable juror, looking back on their decision many years in the future, could be said to have an “abiding conviction” that they looked at all the evidence, put it to the test, and did the right thing that day in court. Whenever evidence is open to two possible interpretations, one that points to a person’s innocence and one that points to a person’s guilt, the jurors are instructed that they must adopt that interpretation that points to your innocence. We have protections like the Presumption of Innocence and the requirement of Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt to make sure that all of the evidence is critically evaluated by the jurors and, most importantly, that no innocent person is ever unjustly convicted.
We Care About Your Rights
In light of all the power and resources of the state, it is essential to have an attorney on your side who can effectively counter the prosecution’s arguments and who genuinely cares about you and your rights. At the Law Office of Jennifer Zide, we value you as a client and as a person. We do everything possible to protect your rights in the system and to expose the weaknesses, assumptions, and inaccuracies that lie at the heart of the state’s case. Contact us today at (805) 477-0327 to discuss the details of your case, explore your options and defenses, and gain information which will empower you in the legal process. We are always on your side.