Frequently Asked Questions and
Information Worth Knowing
Based in Gold River, California, the criminal defense lawyers at The Chastaine Law Office offer the following links, FAQs and other resources for the benefit of interested persons in the Sacramento area seeking information on criminal laws and court information. If you have a specific question or require representation in a particular matter, please contact The Chastaine Law Office to speak with one of our qualified and experienced lawyers.
Arrest & Investigation FAQs
An arrest can be a frightening experience. Being placed in handcuffs, searched, and locked in a cell is humiliating, frightening, and costly – and it can happen even if you are innocent. This brief outline will give you some idea of what to do and what to expect.
Please note: the information contained below is not intended to be legal advice and may not apply in all cases or situations. It does not establish a client-attorney relationship, and is intended ONLY to be used as a guideline of some of the possible considerations.
I was contacted by the police for an interview, what should I do?
You have a constitutional right to refuse to give an interview to the police. The exercise of this right cannot be used against you later in court. Even if the police promise that they won’t arrest you and are very nice to you, you have the right to remain silent and consult with an attorney.
Very rarely is it in your best interest to submit to a police interview. Despite what most police officers say, they are not merely “trying to get your side of the story.” They are looking for evidence to file charges against you. Often, the only real evidence that the police will get against you is your own statements. DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM. If the police contact you, you need to contact an attorney BEFORE you speak to them. This isn’t always easy, as most of us want to cooperate. However, many times the MOST IMPORTANT thing that you can do is to NOT SPEAK TO THE POLICE. Consult an attorney first, get professional advice, and determine how your statement might impact your position.
I think the police might be investigating me?
The same recommendation as above applies: contact an attorney and get professional advice. There may be things that an attorney can do to prevent you from being arrested and prevent charges from ever being filed. For instance, doing some investigation right away may prove that you are being falsely accused. Letting the attorney interface with law enforcement on your behalf is very important. Doing so can often prevent you from being arrested at your home or workplace.
Don’t go through this alone. Talk to someone who knows the system. An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, and you can potentially save thousands of dollars by retaining an attorney BEFORE you are charged and BEFORE submitting to an interview.
Information Worth Knowing
If you are arrested, or know that you are going to be, in most cases you are entitled to post bail and be released. In most counties, bail is set according to a “bail schedule.” Many counties have the bail schedule posted on the internet. Unless there is something unusual about your case, most of the time you can expect the bail to be at or near the schedule. (Sacramento County’s bail schedule can be found here: Sacramento County Bail Schedules and Placer County’s felony bail schedule can be found here: Placer County Felony Bail Schedule). If possible, making arrangements for bail BEFORE you are arrested will speed your release.
There are three (3) ways to post bail:
- Put up cash with the court. The upside of this option is that at the end of the case you get all of your money back. The downside is that you have a large amount of money tied up for the duration of the case.
- Put up property. This requires that you have double the equity in the property or multiple pieces of property. For example, if bail is set at $100,000, then the total equity must be at least $200,000. You must prove this by a recent appraisal. What you are doing with a property bond is giving the Court a lien against the property. If you fail to appear in court, the Court may take the property. In situations where the bail is high, property bonds may be the way to go. It normally will cost several hundred to a couple of thousand dollars to obtain all of the paperwork, appraisals and make the necessary court appearances. It may also take a week or so to secure the release.
- Use a bail bond company. The most common way to post bail is to go through a bail bond company. If you are represented by an attorney, most bail bonds companies will charge 8% of the total bail; if you are not, they will charge 10%. In our example of bail being set at $100,000, your fee to the bail bonds person will be between $8,000 and $10,000. Having an attorney will save you $2,000. Especially for low bail amounts, a bail bonds person is generally the best way to go.
Your first appearance in court will be the arraignment. At this appearance you will be told exactly what charges are brought against you. You will be asked if you have retained an attorney or if you want the court to appoint the Public Defender. Sometimes, you can address the issue of bail if you feel that it has been set too high. This is only the beginning of the process. If you are charged with a felony, you must go to court. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, in most cases, your attorney can appear for you.
Depending on your case, the county and the charges, other court appearances may include:
- Pretrial conferences. This is a conference during which your case is discussed between your attorney, the District Attorney, and the Judge.
- Preliminary hearing (felonies only). This is a hearing before a Judge to determine if there is enough evidence to make you stand trial. The burden is very low: reasonable suspicion. However, the District Attorney must present some evidence of each element of the charge. The only witness may be the police officer who did the investigation (this is known as a Prop. 115 preliminary examination).
- Motions. This may include motions for discovery, to suppress evidence, or to release subpoenaed documents.
- Trial setting. This is a hearing to set a jury trial date and/or determine if all parties are ready to go forward to trial.
- Jury Trial. If the case cannot settle, then you have a right to a jury trial. With the increased penalties that are made into law each year, more and more cases are going to jury trial. Twelve people are selected from the community to hear the evidence and determine whether the District Attorney has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. You have the right to testify or not testify as you choose. You also have the right to have your attorney question the witnesses against you and present evidence that you believe helps your case.
Choosing a Lawyer
Who do you want on your team? Being charged with a criminal offense can be devastating. You run the risk of being put in jail or prison, paying fines, having your good name soiled, and your reputation tarnished. If you are charged with a sex offense, you could be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life, have your picture and address put on the internet as a sex offender and, in some cases, be required to be hooked up to a GPS system for the rest of your life. Be sure that you hire someone you trust and who has the experience to give you the advice you need. Be sure that you retain someone who has the trial experience that YOU need to defend you in court.
Selected County Criminal Courts
- El Dorado County Criminal Court
- Placer County Criminal Court
- Sacramento County Criminal Court
- San Joaquin County Criminal Court
- Yolo County Criminal Court
Selected County Bail Schedules
- El Dorado County Uniform Bail Schedule
- Sacramento County Bail Schedules
- Solano County Court Bail Schedules
- Yolo County Misdemeanor and Felony Bail Schedule
Federal Court System
- United States District Court, Northern District of California
- United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
- United States Supreme Court
- United States District Court, Eastern District of California
Selected Legal Resources
- California Penal Code – The entire body of state criminal law can be found here, including crimes against the person, property crimes, sex offenses, and others.
- California Criminal Jury Instructions – The official instructions for use in the state of California, their goal is to improve the quality of jury decision-making by providing standardized instructions that accurately state the law in a way that is understandable to the average juror.
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is responsible for the incarceration of offenders as well as supervision of parolees.
- United States Department of Justice (US DOJ) – federal agency charged with enforcing the laws of the United States.
- United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – federal agency charged with enforcing the Controlled Substances Act and accompanying regulations.
- DEA Fact Sheet provides recent information on the drug situation in California from the DEA perspective, including information on enforcement and specific drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, club drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy), prescription drugs, marijuana, and crack.
- Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties provide a table showing the range of penalties for violations of the nation’s drug laws, depending upon whether it is a first or subsequent offense, and the type and quantity of drug involved.
- Federal Sentencing Guidelines – establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal criminal justice system, including sentences for drug crimes convictions as well as firearms and weapons violations under the nation’s gun laws.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigates federal offenses including terrorism, cybercrime, organized crime, gang activity, child predators, and serial killers.