An Outline of the Criminal Procedure

Information from an Experienced Torrance Defense Attorney

There are many aspects to a criminal case that you should be familiar with regardless of whether or not you have been arrested for a crime. Here is some important information that will help you understand the legal process regarding your arrest.

Police Interrogation

If the police stop you, it is critical that you do not answer any questions. You have the right to refuse to respond to questioning and ask for an attorney. It is almost always better to approach law enforcement with the aid of a criminal attorney. Having legal protection during questioning is a critical issue. Your attorney can manage the investigation and ensure you do not answer questions in a manner that damages your defense case.

Search and Seizure

When the police conduct a search pursuant to a search warrant, "probable cause" is required. A judge who signs the warrant makes a probable cause determination in advance. When a warrant is successfully quashed, the prosecution cannot use that evidence against you. Sometimes a search is conducted without a warrant. Warrantless searches are allowed under the following situations:

  • Searches incident to arrest: Police can search your body pursuant to a valid arrest. Many arrests are not valid, or the search goes beyond what is allowed by law. It is important to know if this has occurred.
  • Automobile searches: Police can search your car if you are arrested while driving. Again, there are limits to where they may search. If they go beyond searching the immediate area of the driver or passenger, any evidence obtained would be inadmissible.
  • Exigent circumstances: Courts have recognized situations when there needs to be an immediate action. If the time required to get a warrant would result in the evidence being lost, the police may conduct a search. The most common example is during a DUI. If the police waited to get a warrant before taking a breath or blood test, evidence of alcohol in the blood will be lost. Therefore, a warrant is not required.
  • Plain view: Police do not need a search warrant when they see an object that is in plain view of an officer who has the right to be in the position to have that view.
  • Consent: If you consent to a search of your body, your vehicle, or your home, police are not required to have a warrant. You aren't required to consent to any police searches.


In order to be arrested, there must be probable cause. This means that there must be a reasonable belief that a crime was committed and that you committed the crime. An arrest warrant is not necessary. After you're placed under arrest, your constitutional rights provide protection. Two important rights to be aware of are the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney. After your arrest, you aren't required to say anything else to police or investigators, until you have an attorney present. You must be given the opportunity to contact an attorney.

Miranda Rule

Under the Miranda Rule, if you are in police custody you must be informed of specific constitutional rights before interrogation begins. Those rights are as follows:

  • The right to remain silent. If you give up this right, anything you say can be used against you in a court.
  • The right to have an attorney present during questioning.
  • The right to have an attorney appointed if you are unable to afford one.
  • If you made a statement, it must be voluntary. There are limits as to what the police may ask and how they can ask it. Your statement may be excluded if the investigators overreached when speaking to you.


After the police write a report, it is given to the prosecutorial agency. The prosecution will review the evidence and decide whether charges should be filed. This is the best time to get involved. Often, criminal charges can be averted all together. This is why early intervention is essential. If charges are filed, you will be brought before a judge to answer for the charges. Often, the judge will give you time to seek out legal representation if you have not done so already. If are competently represented, you will have to answer the charges. There are two basic pleas, not guilty or guilty. The amount of bail will be set or modified at the Arraignment. Depending on the case, the bail can often be reduced or the judge may release you on your own recognizance. If bail is set, we can help you post a bond.

Preliminary Hearing and Pre-Trial

After the arraignment, you will have a preliminary hearing set if the case if charged as a felony. At this hearing the District Attorney's Office is required to present evidence before a magistrate. The magistrate will make a determination as to whether you should be held for trial. If you are, you will go to the pre-trial phase. If not, the case will be dismissed. Our offices like to attack the prosecution case to break down the state's evidence as early as possible. After the preliminary hearing, or if the case is filed as a misdemeanor, a pre-trial will be set. You have a right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution. If you have not been given this right, the case may be dismissed. A felony is a crime usually punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. A misdemeanor, on the other hand, is usually punishable by a fine or a year or less of incarceration.


Prior to trial, plea agreements may be negotiated. The agreement may be advantageous given the nature of the evidence, therefore, should be considered. If an agreement cannot be reached, a trial will be set. You have a right to a trial by either a jury or a judge. It is a rare case where a judge hears a case; this is usually only if your case is an infraction such as a traffic ticket.


Although our lawyers have an outstanding success rate, it is important to prepare for a worst case scenario. From the start of your case, your attorney should pursue every legal angle. If he does not, and you are found guilty, issues on appeal may be lost. Legal errors, such as illegal rulings or prosecutorial misconduct can cause a conviction to be overturned. Other reasons for appeal may be juror misconduct or newly discovered evidence. If your attorney does not voice objections during the trial, you may lose your chance to address the issue at a later time. Our attorneys are trained to make every possible objection in order to preserve our clients' rights.


Under certain circumstances, you may be able to have your record expunged. This is a civil process where the judge allows you to withdraw your plea and have the case dismissed. The conviction is still valid for law enforcement purposes; however, you are entitled to tell employers you do not have criminal conviction. If the case is a juvenile case, the court will order all records expunged when the minor turns eighteen.

Retain Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

Our firm has a reputation for tough advocacy in criminal cases. We have considerable local, state and federal trial experience, and will aggressively protect your rights. Attorney Decio Rangel Jr. is a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney that knows prosecution strategies and tactics. He has also acted as a legal expert for national television stations and publications, including Good Morning America, ABC News, CBS News, US Weekly and the Los Angeles Times. Our firm is fully committed to providing the highest quality of criminal defense to clients throughout Hermosa Beach , El Segundo , Torrance , and Inglewood , so call today to learn more.

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