If you’ve never been through the process, then you have all the more reason to hire an attorney and to hire a good one. This might vary between attorneys and with different circumstances and cases, but what will likely happen is once you hire an attorney, most likely they would then go out and send their private investigator to take pictures of the scene, and speak to any witnesses that you know of offhand. There might be additional ones down the road, once you get a copy of the police report, but there is a limited amount of investigation that can be done before that first hearing in court.
That first hearing is what’s called an arraignment. All that happens there, in any case, is that the judge advises you of what your charges are, and asks how you want to plead. The basic two options are guilty or not guilty, and there’s also a “no contest” option. If you plead guilty or no contest, that’s the end of the case and you get whatever punishment is coming. You want to plead not guilty at this first court hearing, because that’s going to give you time to investigate the case further and review the report for any issues, and potentially subpoena any witnesses for a motion of suppression hearing or some other motion. You’re going to be looking at probably two or three other hearings, and maybe more depending on some of the factors in your case and whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony.
In misdemeanor cases in California, you do not have to be present personally at every hearing; your attorney can go with you or can go for you. For felony cases, you have to be there at every single hearing. How many times you have to go to court also depends on how long it takes to either settle your case or take it to trial. With a felony case, you’re going to be looking at an arraignment, followed by usually a pre-preliminary hearing and a preliminary hearing. With the misdemeanor, you just go straight into the pre-trial stage and that’s where all the magic happens – any motions, investigations, negotiations. Just as a ballpark figure, it’s probably going to be at least two or three additional hearings after the arraignment before anything really substantive happens.
How Have You Seen Drug Charges Affect People’s Lives?
With drug charges, the convictions aren’t like typical other cases. With many drug offenses, you’re going to be required to be registered with the local law enforcement as a drug offender anywhere you move, so obviously that’s going to be an issue. With employment, any drug convictions that come up, though they’re not going to disqualify you automatically from employment, an employer is going to look at that seriously. They’re going to think hard about whether or not they are going to be able to depend on you, if you’re going to be in and out of rehab, if it’s going to be an ongoing issue. It does affect your life more than any other kind of misdemeanor or felony conviction, partially because of that stigma that’s attached to it and partially because of the requirements of probation and the requirements of just helping yourself get over that issue.
How Public is My Case Going to Be if I Were to Get Arrested for Drug Charges?
Your job won’t find out unless you tell them, or if it’s a company that does random background checks. Other than that, it’s really not that public as far as information being released proactively, meaning if you’re arrested, that arrest technically is public information but it’s not necessarily going to be displayed in the local newspaper. The police department isn’t going to call your family or your job to let them know that you were arrested. They might call your family if you need somebody to pick you up but they’re not necessarily just out looking to tarnish your name with that arrest.
Are Courts Lenient with First Time Drug Offenders?
With drug offenses, they actually are more lenient with first time offenders than with multiple offenders, and that’s where the diversion programs come in. Even with multiple offenders, those could still be an option. The courts will consider family, and will consider an employment history. If circumstances show that this person was just caught up in a bad situation and they don’t think that there’s going to be a recidivism issue, they’ll usually be a little more lenient and offer one of those diversion programs. That way, they can make sure that person gets the help that they need in order to address any potential underlying issues while also trying to avoid that conviction because of the potential consequences that it may have.
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