Navigating the Criminal Justice System

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Navigating the Criminal Justice System Powered By Docstoc
                                               riminal court proceedings can be                     In criminal cases each side is represented by an      Conviction: A final determination that the defendant
                                               unfamiliar and intimidating. Some people      attorney. Deputy district attorneys, who represent the       committed the crime(s) as charged. A conviction
                                               have never been inside a courtroom and        People of the State of California, prosecute criminal        occurs when a judge or jury finds the defendant guilty
Navigating                        don’t know what to expect.                                 cases. A defendant has a constitutional right to be          or when the defendant pleads guilty or no contest.
                                        This pamphlet is intended to explain the criminal    represented by an attorney. If a defendant cannot
the Criminal                      justice process as it applies to adults and juveniles      afford an attorney, one will be appointed by a judge.
                                                                                                                                                          Felony: A serious crime that can be punishable by
                                                                                                                                                          a state prison sentence or the death penalty. Some
                                  charged as adults and acquaint readers with common         Under certain circumstances, a defendant may
Justice System                    terms. It also explains some services and rights           represent himself/herself.
                                                                                                                                                          felonies are “wobblers” and may be charged as
                                  available to crime victims.                                       Once a felony complaint is filed, the case is
                                        In the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s        presented to a judge at a preliminary hearing or to a        Grand Jury: A 23-member panel of citizens
                                  Office, our primary mission is to prosecute criminals,     grand jury to determine if there is sufficient evidence      empowered to hear evidence presented by the
                                  and the cooperation of victims and witnesses is            to proceed toward trial.                                     prosecution and issue indictments, which are
                                  critical to achieving justice.                                    If the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted at     documents charging one or more persons with
                                         To that end, the District Attorney’s Victim-        trial, he/she will be sentenced by a judge to prison,        committing one or more crimes.
                                  Witness Assistance Program helps victims and               jail, probation or other conditions of punishment.           Misdemeanor: A crime that is punishable by no
                                  witnesses as they take part in the process.                       If the defendant is acquitted at trial, he/she will   more than one year in county jail or generally a
                                        We hope this pamphlet helps victims, witnesses       go free.                                                     $1,000 fine.
                                  and members of the public better understand how                                                                         Motion: A written or verbal request by an attorney
                                  the criminal justice system works.                         Key Legal Terms                                              asking a judge to make a legal ruling in a case.
                                        To learn more about the District Attorney’s
                                                                                                                                                          Opening Statement: Before any testimony or
                                  Office and its programs, visit our website at
                                                                                             Acquittal: A final determination by a judge or jury          evidence is presented at trial, the prosecutor and
                                                                                             that the prosecution did not prove the defendant was         defense lawyer each makes a statement outlining
                                                                                             guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.                            evidence he/she expects to present.
                                                                                             Arraignment: A court proceeding at which a                   Plea: A defendant’s answer to the charge(s) against
                                                      Steve Cooley                           defendant is brought before a judge, informed of the         him/ her. A defendant may plead not guilty, guilty or
                                                      District Attorney                      charge(s) against him/her, and a plea – usually not          no contest.
                                                      Los Angeles County                     guilty – is entered.                                         Preliminary Hearing: A court proceeding in felony
                                                                                             Closing Argument: After all testimony and                    cases at which the prosecution must present evidence
                                                                                             evidence has been presented at trial, the prosecutor         to support the charge(s) filed against a defendant. A
                                  The Process                                                and defense lawyer each makes a final statement              judge decides if the evidence is sufficient and if the
                                                                                             summarizing his/her case.                                    case should proceed toward trial.
                                        Law enforcement personnel investigate crimes         Complaint: A document filed by the prosecution               Presumption of Innocence: A principle of criminal
                                  and, if sufficient evidence is found, make arrests. But    accusing one or more persons of committing one or            law that requires prosecutors to prove the guilt of a
                                  an arrest is just the first step in the criminal justice   more crimes.                                                 criminal defendant and eliminates any burden the
                                  process.                                                   Continuance: A delay in court proceedings ordered            defendant has to prove his/her innocence.
                                        After an arrest, prosecutors determine if there      by a judge for a variety of reasons.                         Reasonable Doubt: A standard of proof that must be
                                  is sufficient evidence to file charges. If such evidence                                                                surpassed to find a defendant guilty of a crime; a doubt
     Los Angeles County           exists, a criminal complaint is filed in court.                                                                         based on reason and common sense after careful and
     District Attorney’s Office                                                                                                                           impartial consideration of all the evidence.

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Restitution: Money paid to a victim who suffered            n Do not talk near a member of the jury or attempt to
financial losses such as stolen property, medical bills     talk to or communicate with a member of the jury.           Victim Assistance                                             Victim Impact Statement
and funeral expenses resulting from a crime.                n When the verdict is being read, refrain from any
                                                            verbal outbursts or other disruptive reactions.                   The District Attorney’s Victim-Witness Assistance             At a defendant’s sentencing, the victim has the
Sentencing: A court proceeding at which a judge sets a                                                                                                                                right to make a statement explaining how the crime
                                                                  The judge may exclude from the courtroom              Program is available in courthouses and police stations
convict’s punishment, which can include a prison, jail or                                                                                                                             affected him/her and his/her family and friends. If the
                                                            persons who cause a disturbance or do not follow court      throughout the county to assist crime victims who
probation term or other conditions.                                                                                                                                                   victim is unable or reluctant to speak in court, he/she
                                                            decorum.                                                    suffered injury or were threatened with injury.
Subpoena: A legally binding summons to appear in                  Victims and their families and friends must avoid           Victim services representatives provide assistance      may have someone else read the statement or may
court.                                                      confrontations with a defendant’s family and must not       and resources to victims to help keep them safe               submit a recorded or written statement to the judge.
Testimony: Any statement made, or answer given, by          communicate with a defendant.                               and counseling referrals to address the trauma of
a witness who is under oath in court. Witnesses may               Promptly notify police and court officials if any     victimization.                                                Restitution
encounter two forms of questioning when they testify:       threats, intimidating behavior or attempts to dissuade a          In addition to helping victims obtain restitution,
      Direct Examination is the initial questioning of      victim or his/her family from taking part in proceedings    victim services representatives provide crisis-                    Victims are entitled to have the sentencing judge
a witness by the attorney who called that person to         occur.                                                      intervention services and necessary referrals to crime        order the convicted defendant to pay for financial
testify. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers may call            In criminal homicide cases, graphic photos of the     victims and their families; assist in requesting protective   losses stemming from the crime. Victims should give
witnesses.                                                  victim may be presented as evidence. Certain family         orders; guide crime victims through the court process;        information about the loss, including the dollar amount,
      Cross-Examination is the questioning of a witness     members may consider leaving the courtroom before           help arrange emergency shelter, food and clothing; and        to prosecutors, probation officials and Victim-Witness
by the opposing lawyer who did not call that person         the presentation of this evidence.                          assist in filing for compensation through the California      Assistance Program staff. Receipts and other supporting
to testify. Cross-examination is intended to clarify or                                                                 Victim Compensation Program.                                  documents proving losses should be kept and made
discredit testimony given during direct examination.        Testifying in Court                                               Victims of violence or threats of violence with         available for a restitution hearing that the judge may
                                                                                                                        police reports on file may be eligible to receive             order.
Verdict: The jury’s final unanimous decision
                                                                 A witness called to testify by either the prosecutor   compensation for qualifying losses and expenses related            If the convicted defendant has declared
determining if a defendant is guilty or not guilty. If
                                                            or the defense attorney should:                             to the crime such as loss of wages and relocation,            bankruptcy, he/she still must pay restitution. A convict
jurors cannot reach a unanimous verdict, a judge will
                                                                                                                        medical and counseling expenses.                              sentenced to prison will have restitution deducted from
declare a mistrial and the defendant may face a new         n Always tell the truth.
                                                                                                                              Staff members are available to assist victims in        his/her prison account and wages.
trial before a new jury.                                    n Listen carefully and answer only the question
                                                                                                                        several languages.
                                                            asked; answer “yes” or “no” if the question calls for it;                                                                 Notice of Parole
Attending Court                                             and not volunteer additional information.
Proceedings                                                 n Ask that the question be repeated if it is confusing or                                                                       A victim has the right to be informed of all parole
                                                            not understood; and not guess if he/she does not know                                                                     hearings and to provide information for consideration
                                                            the answer.                                                                                                               before a decision is made to release the convict.
     Victims, their family and friends and members of                                                                               Los Angeles County
                                                            n Be patient and courteous answering attorneys’                         District Attorney’s                                     A victim also has the right to be informed of any
the public may attend court proceedings to watch legal      questions – both attorneys are allowed to question
arguments, testimony and court rulings. To comply with      witnesses.
                                                                                                                                 Victim-Witness                                       change in the convict’s status, such as release upon
court etiquette please:                                                                                                        Assistance Program                                     completion of sentence, escape or death.
                                                            n Ask to review his/her prior statements related to the                                                                         To assure notification, a victim should complete the
n Dress neatly.                                             case – such as statements to police – before taking the               1-800-380-3811                                      California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
n Do not wear or display any buttons or other items         stand; be prepared to answer questions about them.                                   (CDCR) Request for Victim Services Form 1707 and
identifying the victim.                                     n Wait until the judge tells him/her to answer the                                                                        always keep the CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor
n Leave drinks, food and gum outside the courtroom.         question when an attorney objects to a question.                                                                          Rights and Services informed of his/her current
n Stand when instructed to do so by the bailiff or          n Speak loudly and clearly.                                                                                               address. To obtain the form and filing instructions call
judge.                                                      n Dress neatly.                                                                                                           1-877-256-6877 or visit
n Refrain from talking inside the courtroom.

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