Frequently Asked Questions

 

CRIMINAL CASES  - FAQ

Q:        What is bond and how do I post it?
A:        The purpose of bond is to insure the charged individual’s appearance before the court.  A cash bond is an amount equal to 10%  of the bail. For example, for a $10,000.00 bond, a cash amount of $1,000.00 must be   posted.  The court may set a lower or a higher bond based on the charges and/or upon a showing of appropriate circumstances, including criminal history.  If you post a cash bond, often, this bond can be used towards paying a criminal defense attorney.  You would be “assigning” the bond to the attorney.
[Note]  If a bonded individual fails to appear for court, the court can issue a Bench Warrant. The “FTA” will remain on the individual’s record, and the cash bond may be forfeited.

Q:        If I was arrested and released by the police, why is there a “warrant” for my arrest?
A:        I am often asked this question because it just simply doesn’t seem fair. Basically, the police are allowed to hold a person only for a certain period of time.  If charges have not been formally “filed” by that deadline, the person must be released.  The case may sit on an officer’s desk for awhile while follow up investigation is done (or not), or, the prosecutor’s office may require that the officer do additional things before they will take the case.  Whatever the reason, the case may not be filed immediately.  When it is filed, in Felony cases, a “warrant” is automatically issued. In Misdemeanor cases, a warrant may or may not be issued.

Q:        What if I can’t post bond?
A:        If you cannot post bond for yourself or on behalf of the person charged, then that individual may remain incarcerated in the County Jail until the conclusion of the case.  A public defender will be appointed unless the person charged indicates to the court that they will be hiring private counsel.

Q:        How long is this process?
A:        The length of the process depends on several things: If the person is charged with a Misdemeanor or Traffic matter, the process tends to be much shorter, usually a month or two at the most.  If, however, the person is charged with a Felony, the process usually takes months, perhaps even a year or two depending on the charge. 

Q:        What is the process, or, what should I expect?
A:        The process obviously begins with the arrest of a person who has been charged with a criminal or traffic related offense.  In minor Traffic offenses, the court will send notification of the hearing date to the address that appears on the driver’s license, or given to the officer.  If you “FTA,” Fail To Appear, for this hearing, a warrant may be issued for your arrest. In Felony cases, the first hearing is an 1) Initial Hearing (IH), which is conducted usually within 48 hours of an arrest if the person is incarcerated.  During this hearing, a Judge or Magistrate will advise you of the charges against you, the amount of your bond, and inquire as to whether you will be hiring private counsel or whether you are in need of a public defender.  The next hearing is the 2) Formal Appearance Hearing (FA).  The purpose of this hearing is for your Attorney, whether private or public, to appear before the court with you.  Future court dates are often confirmed at this time.  Requests for bond reductions can also be addressed with your attorney at this hearing if you are still in custody. 3) State and Defendant Discovery Dates.  These dates are set as supposed deadlines for the exchange of “discovery,” ie., police reports, witness statements, photos, etc.  The State’s Discovery date is the deadline for he State  to tender all of the materials upon which their charges are based. The Defendant’s Discovery date is the deadline for tendering of the defendant’s witnesses and/or evidence, if any, including possible defenses   for the crime(s) charged. 4) The Omnibus Hearing (OMNI) or Mandatory Dispositional Conference (MDC) is set out several weeks after the exchange of discoveries in order for the court to determine the progress in the case.  In other words, are there possible plea negotiations?, or, is this case headed for trial?  The OMNI or MDC hearings may be continued several times before this decision can be made. 
In Misdemeanor cases, the same procedures apply regarding the Initial Hearing and Formal Appearance.  Discovery must also be provided, but the case can usually be disposed at the first OMNI or MDC hearings.

Q:        Can I get my criminal conviction “expunged”?
You may have heard or even seen an attorney billboard offering the potential expungement of your criminal history.  This process is not as simple as it may sound.  The relevant law continues to evolve.