California Drug Crime Hearings
Although some people charged with possessing, selling, or manufacturing drugs may be a danger to themselves and others, several defendants are either not guilty or do not have a problem with narcotics other than the fact that they are illegal. The “War on Drugs” has resulted in countless individuals spending extended time in jail or prison. Whether the judge in your case feels that you need to be incarcerated or should be given a second chance through alternative sentencing largely depends upon the crime you have been accused of and your criminal history.
If you are charged with a narcotic crime in California, you may go through the traditional criminal justice system or Drug Courts. There are distinct differences between the two: In one, a conviction can lead to incarceration. In the other, it can result in the requirement to complete an alternative program in lieu of imprisonment. Knowing what those differences are and how you can use them to your advantage could substantially impact your future.
At the Law Offices of Randy Collins, our team can discuss your legal options and build a strategy for your unique needs. Schedule a free consultation by calling (844) 524-4011 or submitting an online contact form today.
Drug Crime Hearing Process in Traditional Court
If you commit a violent drug crime or a sales offense, your case will likely be heard in traditional criminal court. This is the court where a prosecutor tries to prove that you a guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and your lawyer challenges the accusations.
The drug crime hearing process in traditional court typically proceeds as follows:
- Arraignment: After a prosecutor files your charges, the first formal court proceeding takes place at your arraignment hearing. Under California Penal Code 825, if you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense and were taken into custody, your arraignment must occur within 48 hours of your arrest. The 48-hour rule excludes Sundays and court holidays.
If you were not taken into custody after your arrest, the 48-hour rule does not apply. Instead, your arraignment will be scheduled “without unnecessary delay.”
During the arraignment, the judge will:
- Inform you of the charges against you
- Inform you of your constitutional rights
- Decide whether to release you or set bail (or refuse to do either)
- Set a date for your preliminary hearing
You may also be asked to respond to your charges by entering a guilty, not guilty, or no contest plea.
- Preliminary hearing: The second stage of the criminal court process is the preliminary hearing. The goal is to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a trial and make you answer for the alleged charge or charges. Hiring a drug crime lawyer at this stage will help you better understand the process and prepare your defense. In some cases, an experienced lawyer may be able to convince the judge that there is not enough evidence to proceed.
- Discovery: Before the trial, the prosecutor and defense will go into the “discovery" stage. This is where they exchange information and facts about the case. Both sides can file pretrial motions, such as a motion to dismiss the entire case or exclude the particular evidence. The prosecutor and defense may also agree to resolve the case without going to trial.
- Trial: Your trial must begin within 60 days from the second arraignment.
During trial, you are entitled to the following rights:
- Have a jury hear your case
- Have an attorney represent you
- Remain silent
- Have a public and speedy trial
- Confront witnesses
- Be free from being tried again for the same drug crime
You are allowed to “waive” your right to a speedy trial; however, it is rarely a good idea to do so.
When you are accused of a crime, you are presumed innocent. During trial, the prosecutor attempts to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt while your attorney defends your innocence.
Both sides can:
- Give opening statements,
- Present evidence and witnesses, and
- Give closing arguments.
The trier of fact – be it a judge or jury – will decide whether or not you are guilty of the offense.
Drug Court Process in California
California Drug Court is the alternative to traditional criminal courts. It allows nonviolent offenders to handle their cases in a way that is geared more towards rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Often, the drug court process is considered a less adversarial process than that of the criminal court because it involves more collaboration in providing help and treatment for the defendant.
Drug courts provide services for the following types of cases:
- Adult: Focuses on helping adult offenders receive treatment for drug addiction.
- Dependency: Focuses on providing treatment to parents with substance abuse problems who have been accused of neglecting, abusing, or abandoning their children.
- Juvenile: Focuses on delivering services to minors who use drugs.
Drug courts are designed to people address and overcome substance addiction and abuse. Rehabilitative services foster long-term recovery and reduce recidivism. Because drug courts in California decide how to run their own programs, the program requirements may vary by the court.
Various drug court models exist. These include:
- Pre-plea programs: In this model, the accused’s case would be sent to a drug court instead of being handled in criminal court.
- Post-plea programs: The accused must enter a guilty plea before they are able to participate in drug court services.
- Post-adjudication programs: Most California drug courts follow this model. It allows a defendant convicted of a qualifying drug crime to enter treatment.
After a person’s case has been diverted to drug court, they must adhere to their program’s requirements for a set period.
Some of the services the individual must participate in include:
- Group counseling
- Drug education
- Substance abuse disorder treatment
- Case management services
- Frequent court appearances
After successful completion of the program, the individual’s case is typically dismissed. However, if they do not fulfill all requirements, they are processed through traditional court, where they face criminal penalties.
Do You Need an Attorney at Your Drug Hearing?
You have the right to represent yourself at your hearing. However, doing so requires you to know and follow the law and court rules. If you are a first-time drug offender, you may feel lost and frustrated and have little knowledge about the court system.
If you choose to defend yourself, you may face limitations that can restrict you from properly handling your own case. For instance, witness identity is protected, and you will not be able to contact witnesses without having an attorney representing you.
Moreover, a criminal defense attorney can seek to convince the judge and prosecutor to dismiss your case. They can also work to secure a place in California Diversion Programs such as California’s Prop. 36 or California Penal Code 1000 PC deferred entry of judgment.
At the Law Offices of Randy Collins, our attorneys are here to guide you through your case. Call us at (844) 524-4011 or contact us online. We provide a free initial consultation and flat-rate fees to those in Orange, Riverside, and San Diego Counties.