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Understanding Criminal Procedure in California and Pretrial Hearings

What is a Pretrial Hearing?


A pretrial hearing is a meeting between the parties to discuss how a case will proceed and to resolve any preliminary issues before a trial starts. Pretrial hearings involve the prosecution, defense, and judge. They are not heard before a jury.

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Pretrial hearings aim to narrow the issues in a case and help the trial run smoothly. They also often lead to an early resolution of the case, so it doesn't need to go to trial.

At a pretrial hearing, the parties may:

  • Request timeframes for filing documents, subsequent pretrial hearings, and the trial itself
  • Challenge the admissibility of certain evidence, for example, an illegal search or other unlawfully obtained evidence
  • Update the court on trial preparation
  • File a motion for discovery, for example, obtaining evidence for testing
  • Negotiate a plea deal
  • Agree on undisputed facts to narrow the issues for trial
  • Discuss witness availability issues

In some counties, pretrial hearings are also referred to as pretrial conferences, trial readiness conferences, or status conferences. Navigating the criminal justice system on your own is never a good idea. You need a defense attorney who knows the system and can provide solid legal advice. Call The Law Office of Richard Wagner today at (714) 721-4423 or fill out the convenient online form today. 

When are DUI pretrial hearings held in California?

In criminal cases, pretrial hearings are held after the defendant's arraignment (initial appearance) and before the preliminary hearing and jury trial. Read about What Happens At Your Arraignment in California

Do Orange County defendants need to attend a pretrial hearing?

The court will advise a defendant whether they need to attend a specific pretrial hearing. However, for misdemeanor cases like most DUI cases and some felonies, Penal Code Section 977 authorizes your attorney to appear for you so you do not have to miss work, school, or arrange for child care.  

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If the defendant fails to appear as required, the court can impose sanctions on them, including further criminal charges. The court can also issue a warrant for the defendant's arrest. 

Why does a pretrial hearing matter?

Pretrial hearings are critical to the outcome of a criminal matter. When used strategically, they may eliminate the need to go to trial altogether. 

For example, a pretrial hearing may reveal the strengths or weaknesses of a case, which may lead to the prosecution withdrawing the charges, the defendant deciding to plead no contest or guilty to the charges, or the parties agreeing to a plea deal. Read more about Plea Deals in California

For a defendant, a pretrial hearing is an important mechanism to assert and protect their constitutional rights. It also helps prepare their defense. For these reasons, it's a good idea to consult a DUI criminal defense attorney about any pretrial hearings that may be needed in your matter. 

Do you need a DUI attorney in Orange County for the pretrial hearing?

Yes, it's in your best interests to have an experienced DUI attorney represent you at a pretrial hearing. Pretrial hearings are an important part of a defense strategy, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can use them to your advantage.

These hearings often involve complex legal issues that can significantly impact the outcome of your case. For this reason, it's crucial to find a defense attorney who is well-versed in DUI criminal law to argue your case on your behalf. That's why you should call The Law Office of Richard Wagner at (714) 721-4423 or fill out an online form today.

The effective use of pretrial hearings may reduce the seriousness of the allegations against you or even see the charges dropped entirely, saving you the time, money, and stress of a criminal trial. Contact The Law Office of Richard Wagner to schedule a FREE Consultation.