If you or someone you know faces criminal charges in Monterey, CA, you probably have many questions and concerns racing through your mind. Like many suspects, legal processes can perplex you, especially if you do not know how to navigate the California justice system.

It is not uncommon to be anxious and unsure about what to do. So, this article answers some of the frequently asked questions regarding criminal defense in California. You learn these legal intricacies and gain clear and concise answers to your queries. You could also work with a criminal defense lawyer to find in-depth answers you do not comprehend.

At Monterey Criminal Attorney, our attorneys are well-trained and have many years of experience defending various criminal offenses, including murder, violent crimes, traffic offenses, and domestic violence. If you have further questions you need answers to below, contact us for a consultation.

  • Can I Represent Myself in a California Criminal Court?

Even if California law allows individuals to represent themselves in a criminal case, it is a path prosecutors and attorneys strongly discourage for several compelling reasons. Criminal charges can be incredibly stressful, regardless of your strength. Prosecutors are unlikely to show leniency, especially when they possess strong evidence against you.

Self-representation can lead to undue pressure, potentially causing you to make statements that could harm your case. The risk of inadvertently incriminating yourself is high without an attorney's legal knowledge and experience. Moreover, emotions can cloud your judgment, and unfamiliarity with court rules and procedures can be detrimental.

In essence, it is a risk not worth taking if you wish to avoid the consequences of a conviction. An experienced criminal defense attorney can be your greatest asset, preparing your case, remaining composed during the trial, and utilizing their expertise to secure a favorable outcome.

  • Can I Go To Jail For Failing to Appear?

When a judge grants your release on bail after an arrest, you are legally obligated to appear in court on specified dates for trial. Failing to do so constitutes a criminal offense in California, which can lead to new charges stacked on top of your existing ones.

A bench warrant for your arrest is issued in such cases, and law enforcement officers will actively seek your apprehension. Failing to appear can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges, as defined under California Penal Code Sections 1320 and 1320.5.

To convict you of this offense, the prosecution must prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. You face charges for a specific criminal offense.
  2. The judge released you from jail on bail.
  3. You willfully skipped a court date.
  4. You intentionally refused to appear to evade the court process.

The penalties for failing to appear vary depending on the original charges. For instance, if you were arrested for a misdemeanor and released on personal recognizance, you would face misdemeanor charges for failing to appear. Penalties may include the following:

  1. Misdemeanor probation.
  2. A maximum of six months in jail.
  3. A maximum fine of $1,000.

However, if you faced felony charges and were released on personal recognizance, you will likely face felony charges for failing to appear. Penalties could involve the following:

  1. Felony probation.
  2. Up to one to three years in prison.
  3. A maximum fine of $5,000.

If you were released on bail for felony charges, the consequences of failing to appear are even more severe, and you'll forfeit the bail money, potentially involving the repossession of property offered as security.

  • Can I Resist Arrest?

Resisting arrest in California is considered a criminal offense under Section 148a of the state's Penal Code. The law explicitly forbids you from resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer while they perform their lawful duties. Engaging in such behavior can lead to additional misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to one year of incarceration and court fines.

Therefore, it is strongly advisable not to resist an arrest, even if you believe it's a mistake. The best action is to comply with the officer, go to the police station, and contact your attorney to handle the situation. An experienced attorney will vigorously fight to ensure you spend the least time behind bars.

  • Can Police Act on Anonymous Tips?

Criminals often try to evade law enforcement by operating in secrecy. As a result, police officers frequently receive information from various sources, sometimes anonymously. Yes, the police can act on anonymous tips to arrest a suspect, but they must adhere to the laws, rules, and procedures outlined in the Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from illegal searches and seizures by requiring police to obtain a warrant before searching a person or their property. This warrant must specify probable cause for the search and the exact locations or individuals subject to the search. Without a warrant, you have the right to challenge the legality of the search and seizure, which could result in evidence being deemed inadmissible in court.

In certain situations, when time is of the essence, the police may need more time to obtain a search warrant. However, they must have reasonable suspicion that:

  1. Unusual activity has occurred.
  2. The activity is related to a criminal offense.
  3. The arrested person was directly involved in the activity.

If this narrative is accepted in court, the police's conduct will not be considered unlawful. Nevertheless, it's crucial to remember that the Fourth Amendment protects your rights, and you can challenge any violations with the assistance of a skilled attorney.

  • How Do I Find the Right Criminal Defense Attorney?

Navigating California's complex criminal justice system can be a formidable challenge, making legal representation crucial. However, not all attorneys are created equal, and choosing the right one is paramount. Here are some key factors to consider when searching for the right criminal defense attorney:

  1. Knowledge and Experience: Seek an attorney with extensive knowledge and experience in criminal law. They should be well-versed in the law to provide you with sound advice and effectively fight for your rights.
  2. Integrity: Your attorney should be trustworthy and committed to protecting your rights. They should make decisions in your best interest and be honest throughout your case.
  3. Communication Skills: Effective communication is essential. Your attorney should maintain open communication with you, their legal team, and court personnel. They should also be attentive listeners, capable of capturing crucial details that can benefit your case.
  4. Aggressiveness: Trial proceedings can be intense. Your attorney should be willing to challenge the prosecutor's arguments and build a robust defense on your behalf.
  5. Familiarity with Court Processes: Select an attorney familiar with the court's rules and procedures in your jurisdiction. This knowledge can significantly benefit your defense.
  • Do Law Enforcement Officers Require a Warrant For My Arrest?

Typically, law enforcement officers need a warrant to arrest an individual. An arrest warrant is a written order issued by a magistrate directing the police to apprehend a specific individual facing criminal charges. However, in California, there are circumstances where police officers can make arrests without a warrant, as permitted under Sections 836 of the California Penal Code and 40300.5 of the state's Vehicle Code. These situations include:

  1. When a Crime Occurs in Their Presence: If an officer witnesses a crime, they can make an arrest without obtaining a warrant.
  2. Probable Cause: If an officer has probable cause to believe a person has committed a felony, they can arrest without a warrant. Probable cause means having sufficient evidence to reasonably believe a crime was committed.
  3. Arrest Under a Warrant: Officers can arrest the individual named in the warrant if another law enforcement agency has already obtained a valid arrest warrant.
  4. Citizen's Arrest: Private citizens can make arrests in certain situations, but this process has strict guidelines and limitations.

In most cases, law enforcement officers will obtain an arrest warrant before making an arrest. However, when faced with an arrest, it's crucial to consult with an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

  • Can One Be Released Without Posting Bail?

Yes, being released from custody without posting bail in California is possible. When determining whether you should be released on bail, the court considers various factors, including the nature of the charges, your criminal history, and whether you pose a danger to the community or are a flight risk.

If the court determines that you are not a threat to the community and are likely to appear for future court dates, they may release you on your own recognizance (O.R.). O.R. release means that you are released from custody without the need to post bail.

However, you must sign an agreement promising to appear in court as scheduled. Failure to do so can result in the issuing of a bench warrant for your arrest, as explained earlier.

  • What Are My Rights During a California Arrest?

Understanding your rights during an arrest is crucial to protecting your legal interests. When you face an arrest in California, you have certain rights, including:

  1. The Right to Remain Silent: You have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions from law enforcement. Anything you say can be used against you in court, so it's often advisable to exercise this right until you have legal representation.
  2. The Right to an Attorney: You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, a public defender will be appointed to represent you.
  3. The Right to Know the Charges: You have the right to know the charges against you. Law enforcement must inform you of the specific offenses for which you face arrest.
  4. The Right to Refuse Searches: You have the right to refuse consent for searches of your person, vehicle, or property unless law enforcement has a valid search warrant or probable cause.
  5. The Right to Due Process: You have the right to due process, which includes a fair and impartial trial, the right to present a defense, and the right to confront witnesses against you.

Remember, exercising these rights and remaining calm and cooperative during your arrest is in your best interest. Consulting with an attorney immediately ensures your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

  • What’s The Difference Between Misdemeanor and Felony Charges?

Criminal charges are categorized as either misdemeanors or felonies, with significant differences between the two:

  1. Misdemeanor Charges: Misdemeanors are less severe offenses and typically result in less severe penalties. These may include fines, probation, and up to one year in county jail. Common misdemeanor charges include petty theft, simple assault, and public intoxication.
  2. Felony Charges: Felonies are more serious offenses and carry harsher penalties, including imprisonment in state prison. Felony convictions can also result in fines, probation, parole, and the loss of certain rights. Examples of felony charges include murder, rape, and grand theft.

The distinction between misdemeanor and felony charges is crucial, as it significantly impacts the potential consequences of a conviction. It's vital to consult with an attorney who can provide guidance based on the specific charges you face.

  • Is there a difference between probation and parole?

While both probation and parole involve supervised release, they are distinct in their origins and the circumstances under which they are granted.


Probation is typically part of the sentencing process. When you are convicted of a crime, the judge may grant probation as an alternative to incarceration or as part of a sentence that includes a period of imprisonment followed by probation. Probation allows you to serve your sentence in the community under specific conditions and supervision instead of serving jail or prison time.

Probation comes with specific conditions you must adhere to, such as regular check-ins with a probation officer, drug testing, community service, and compliance with court-ordered programs or treatment. County probation departments typically administer probation, and the probation officer's role is to monitor and support the individual's compliance with the conditions of probation.


Parole is a supervised release granted to you after serving a portion of your prison sentence. It is typically granted to inmates with good behavior and a reduced risk to society. Parole allows them to complete the remainder of their sentence in the community under supervision.

Parole also comes with conditions, such as regular meetings with a parole officer, restrictions on travel, and requirements to find employment or participate in rehabilitation programs. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) administers parole. Parole officers, often called parole agents, supervise individuals on parole.

Probation is a form of supervised release granted as part of a sentence at the time of conviction, while parole is granted to individuals who have served a portion of their prison sentence and is supervised by the CDCR.

Both probation and parole come with conditions and requirements that individuals must follow to comply with the law. Violating probation or parole conditions can result in additional penalties or a return to incarceration.

  • What is the difference between a dismissal and an expungement?

Under California law, a dismissal and an expungement are related legal processes, but they serve slightly different purposes and have distinct effects on a person's criminal record.


A dismissal refers to the termination of your criminal case. It occurs when your charges are dropped, dismissed by the court, or when you are found not guilty at trial.

When your case is dismissed, the charges brought against the individual are no longer pending. The person is considered not guilty of the alleged crime, and there is no conviction related to that specific case on their record.

A dismissal can happen at various stages of the criminal justice process, including before trial, during trial, or even after a conviction if new evidence comes to light that exonerates the defendant.

Importantly, a dismissal does not automatically remove the record of the arrest or the fact that charges were filed. These records may still appear on background checks unless the individual takes further steps, such as expungement.


Expungement is a separate legal process that allows an individual with a criminal conviction to petition the court to have their conviction set aside or dismissed.

It is available to individuals who have completed their probation or sentence and have met all the conditions set by the court. This typically includes fulfilling probationary requirements, paying fines, and avoiding legal trouble.

If the court grants an expungement, it changes the disposition of the case from "guilty" to "dismissed" on the individual's criminal record. This can be particularly beneficial when seeking employment or housing, as it indicates that the person has rehabilitated themselves.

However, not all convictions are eligible for expungement. Serious crimes, such as certain sex or violent felonies, may be ineligible.

A dismissal is the resolution of a criminal case without a conviction. At the same time, an expungement is a separate legal process that can be pursued after a sentence to have it set aside or dismissed from the individual's criminal record. Both processes can be valuable in helping individuals move forward after a legal issue, but they apply in different circumstances.

  • What is a pretrial conference or pretrial hearing in a criminal case?

In California, a pretrial conference or pretrial hearing is a crucial phase in the criminal court process. It is a meeting or hearing that occurs before a trial and serves several important purposes:

  1. Case Management. One primary purpose of a pretrial conference is to manage the case effectively. The judge, prosecution, and defense attorney meet to discuss the status of the case, including any outstanding issues, motions, or evidence that needs to be addressed before trial.
  2. Resolution Attempts. Pretrial conferences often involve discussions about potential plea bargains or settlement negotiations. The prosecution and defense may try to reach an agreement that could result in reduced charges or sentencing in exchange for a guilty plea. This is an opportunity for both sides to explore the possibility of resolving the case without going to trial.
  3. Evidence and Motions. During the pretrial conference, the judge may address any motions the defense or prosecution has filed. These could include motions to suppress evidence, change venue, or dismiss charges. The judge will consider these motions and make rulings that can significantly impact the trial.
  4. Scheduling. The pretrial conference is where the trial date is often set. The court and parties involved will discuss scheduling logistics, including the availability of witnesses and, experts, and the court's calendar. The goal is to ensure that the trial proceeds smoothly and efficiently.
  5. Discovery. The pretrial conference may involve discussing exchanging evidence and discovery materials between the prosecution and defense. Both sides must disclose relevant evidence to each other before trial, ensuring a fair and transparent process.
  6. Trial Readiness. The judge will assess the readiness of both parties for trial during the pretrial conference. This includes reviewing witness lists, exhibits, and other preparations for a successful trial.
  7. Settlement Discussions. Sometimes, the pretrial conference may serve as a last opportunity for the prosecution and defense to discuss possible settlements or plea deals. If an agreement is reached, the case may be resolved without going to trial.
  8. Procedural Matters. Any other procedural issues or concerns may be addressed during the pretrial conference. This could include issues related to jury selection, jury instructions, or the presentation of evidence.

Pretrial conferences vary from case to case, and the specific matters discussed during these conferences depend on the nature and complexity of the criminal case. These hearings ensure the trial process is fair, efficient, and well-prepared.

  • What is the process after criminal charges are filed in court?

The legal process proceeds through several stages after the prosecution files criminal charges in a California court. Below is an overview of the typical process:


The first official court appearance for you is the arraignment. During this proceeding, your charges are formally read to you, and you are asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Also, an attorney may be appointed if you cannot afford one. Bail conditions and release terms may also be discussed in this proceeding, or another date may be set purposefully for the bail hearing.

Pretrial Hearings

After the arraignment, there may be several pretrial hearings where both the prosecution and defense prepare their cases. These hearings may include discussions about evidence, witness testimony, and legal motions or challenges. The judge may also set trial dates during this phase.


The prosecution and defense exchange evidence and information in a process known as discovery. This includes sharing witness statements, police reports, physical evidence, and other relevant materials.

Plea Bargaining

The prosecution and defense may negotiate a plea bargain throughout the pretrial phase. A plea bargain involves the defendant agreeing to plead guilty or no contest to reduced charges or sentencing in exchange for a lighter penalty.


If a plea bargain is not reached, the case proceeds to trial. The trial can be either by jury or, in some cases, by judge (bench trial). Both sides present evidence during the trial, question witnesses, and make arguments. The judge or jury determines a verdict of guilty or not guilty based on the evidence presented.


If the defendant is found guilty, a separate sentencing hearing is held. The judge considers various factors, including the nature of the crime, the defendant's criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. The judge then imposes the sentence, including fines, probation, imprisonment, or other penalties.


Following a conviction, the defendant has the right to appeal the verdict or sentence. Appeals are typically based on legal errors during the trial or sentencing phase. The appellate court reviews the case and may uphold, reverse, or modify the conviction or sentence.

Post-Conviction Proceedings

If the defendant's appeal is unsuccessful, they may explore other post-conviction options, such as habeas corpus petitions or motions for a new trial. These proceedings are initiated to challenge the legality of the conviction.

Parole and Probation

If the defendant is sentenced to probation or parole, they must adhere to specific conditions set by the court or parole board. Violation of these conditions can result in further legal consequences.

The specific process may vary depending on the type and severity of the charges and the unique circumstances of each case. Legal representation by an attorney is crucial at every stage to protect the defendant's rights and provide an effective defense.

Find a California Criminal Lawyer Near Me

Facing criminal charges in Monterey, CA, can be a daunting experience. Your constitutional rights and freedom are paramount; you want legal guidance. At Monterey Criminal Attorney, we specialize in criminal law, and upon contacting us, we ensure that you are well informed about your case.

If you have questions or need guidance regarding your unique situation, request a free case review with our experienced lawyers. We can provide valuable insights, advise you on your constitutional rights, and discuss how we can assist you in navigating your legal journey. You can contact us at 831- 574-1791 to take the first step in safeguarding your rights and freedom.