Yes and yes. The criminal process can begin even before your arrest. In certain cases, Ninaz Saffari will be able to find out if you are being investigated for a particular crime. Whenever possible, she will take advantage of this opportunity to convince the investigating detective not to refer the case to the District Attorney’s Office (if a felony is alleged) or the City Attorney’s Office (if a misdemeanor is alleged) for prosecution. Or, if the detective has already referred the case to the D.A.’s or C.A.’s Office, Ms. Saffari will do everything in her power to convince the prosecutor to not file charges or even to dismiss the charges (if they were already filed).
Ms. Saffari does this by putting together a presentation for the detective and/or prosecutor which typically includes one or more of the following: an in-person meeting so she can present your side of the story; favorable eyewitness statements; favorable expert witness reports; a favorable polygraph result; and any other exculpatory evidence.
If you are accused of committing a misdemeanor, which is a crime punishable by less than one year in jail, the police can arrest you or simply issue you a citation to appear in court, then release you. Certain types of misdemeanors, such as crimes of domestic violence, will usually result in an arrest. If you are accused of committing a felony, you will definitely be arrested.
You will be taken back to the local police station for booking and processing. Your fingerprints will be taken, you will be photographed, and then you will be placed in a holding cell. All of this information will be entered into a national database. You will then typically be allowed a single phone call from a pay phone. This entire process can take as long as 8-12 hours.
Sometimes, if the charges are not serious and you have no outstanding warrants, you may be released on O.R. (“your own recognizance”), where you promise to appear in court on a date in the near future. Otherwise, if you are unable to make bail in time, you will be transferred to the central jail facility in downtown Los Angeles.
First, you will be strip-searched, your clothes and personal possessions will be temporarily confiscated (to be returned upon your release from custody), and you will be assigned jail clothing and footwear. You will then be placed in a dorm, pod or cell (depending on the severity of the alleged crime, among other factors).
You will be housed in the central jail facility until at least your arraignment. This could be as early as the following morning. Or, if you are arrested on a Friday, you won’t see the judge until Monday. And if you are arrested during a major holiday weekend, you might not be arraigned until early the following week.
If for some reason the prosecutor declines to press charges, you will be released. Otherwise, the prosecutor can decide to charge you with one or more felonies or misdemeanors. Because of your Constitutional right to a speedy trial, the prosecutor typically has only 48 hours to charge you. Otherwise, you will be released.
Following your arrest, the arresting officer will prepare a police report. He or she may also prepare one or more supplemental police reports. Defendants are typically not entitled to a copy of the report, but your attorney (either a public defender or a private attorney) will be able to obtain it.
This is your initial court hearing and appearance before a judge, where the charges against you will be stated on the record. If you do not yet have a private attorney, assuming you qualify financially, the court will assign you a public defender. You will then be required to plead “guilty”, “not guilty” or “no contest” (“nolo contendere”) to the charges unless your private attorney or public defender continues the arraignment to another date in the near future.
The judge will set a monetary bail amount at that time or deny you any right to bail. If you believe the bail amount is too high, your attorney may set a bail hearing in the near future. You will remain in custody until and unless you are able to make bail. As of October 1, 2019, California will no longer have monetary bail. As of that date, bail will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on your flight risk, potential danger to the community, as well as other factors.
During the first stage of your case, Ninaz Saffari will conduct an extensive, thorough investigation into all the relevant facts, particularly those alleged in the police report. When applicable, she uses a highly experienced private investigator to visit the scene of the alleged crime and interview all potential witnesses. She may also hire one or more expert witnesses to prepare reports that she can use as evidence of your innocence or to otherwise attack the prosecutor’s evidence.
The second stage of your case is called the “discovery” phase. Here, the prosecutor is required by law to hand over all exculpatory evidence to your attorney. This means any and all evidence that could prove your innocence, or that otherwise could support your defense. If the prosecutor fails to do this, Ms. Saffari will bring this to the judge’s attention, including by filing a motion.
During this phase, the prosecutor will typically offer you a plea agreement. This plea will can be extremely unfavorable, meaning that the conviction you are offered, or the time you will serve, will not be much less than what you would have received if you lost at trial. However, in many cases, the longer the case takes, and the more work Ninaz Saffari does on your case in gathering exculpatory or mitigating evidence, the greater your chance that the offer will improve. However, this is certainly not always the case, particularly if the charges are serious or if you have prior convictions.
Yes. Ninaz Saffari will file all applicable motions that could benefit you, including a Motion to Dismiss based on insufficient evidence, or to suppress (exclude) certain evidence that was gathered by police illegally and/or otherwise in violation of your Constitutional rights.
Assuming you have not accepted the prosecutor’s plea offer, if any, then the judge will preside over a preliminary hearing. This is often like a one-sided “mini-trial” where the prosecutor puts on witnesses, including police officers and detectives, so the judge can determine whether there is enough evidence to hold you over for trial. This is your chance to see all of the prosecutor’s evidentiary cards without having to show yours. A highly experienced and skilled attorney like Ninaz Saffari will save her client’s best evidence for trial. She will use the preliminary hearing testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses to cross-examine them, and to look for inconsistencies that can be used to impeach them at trial.
Judges will rarely dismiss a case at the end of the preliminary hearing, particularly if the charges against you are serious. Any attorney that tells you otherwise, or that promises you he or she will be able to get your case dismissed at this stage, is probably being dishonest.
Finally, preliminary hearings are only for felony charges, not misdemeanors.
Regardless of whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, you have a Constitutional right to a trial before a jury of your peers. (If you are a juvenile, only a judge will decide your case.)
If you are in custody on a misdemeanor charge, you must be brought to trial no later than 30 days after the arraignment. If you are not in custody, the deadline is 45 days. In the vast majority of cases, however, Ms. Saffari will continue the trial to allow for investigation, discovery, pre-trial motions, etc. (She will never continue the case unnecessarily.) This means that you voluntarily waive your speedy trial rights.
The first step is jury selection, which is known as voir dire. This is where both the prosecutor and Ms. Saffari are allowed to ask questions of potential jurors so they can disqualify those whom they believe will be biased for their side. Each is allowed to disqualify a certain number of potential jurors. Ultimately, 12 jurors will be selected by the judge, along with alternate jurors (in case any of the original jurors are forced to drop out). Ms. Saffari is highly skilled and successful at picking juries that are fair to her clients.
The second step is the opening statement, where, first, the prosecutor is allowed to summarize to the jury the charges and purported evidence against you. Then, Ms. Saffari takes her turn to summarize the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and evidence, and to otherwise highlight the strengths of your defense, including your exculpatory evidence.
The third stage is the prosecution’s case. Here, the prosecutor calls his or her witnesses and presents all of his or her evidence against you. Witnesses are only allowed in the courtroom during their own testimony. The prosecutor conducts a direct examination of each witness, after which Ms. Saffari cross-examines each witness. At the end of this phase, the prosecution rests its case.
The fourth stage is the defense’s case, where Ms. Saffari calls all of your witnesses, one by one, for direct examination. The prosecutor is allowed to cross-examine each of those witnesses. She may call you to the stand, if necessary. Since the burden of proof is on the prosecution, you have the Constitutional right to not testify (to avoid incriminating yourself or to avoid subjecting you to cross-examination by the prosecutor).
During this stage, Ms. Saffari attacks the prosecutor’s witnesses and evidence, and may provide an affirmative defense, i.e., witnesses and evidence that prove your innocence or she may present witnesses whose testimony weaken the prosecution’s case. Once this stage is completed, the defense rests.
The fifth stage is the closing argument, where each side sums up its own strengths, as well as the weaknesses of the other party’s case.
The sixth stage is jury deliberations and verdict.
The seventh and final stage, if you are convicted on at least one of the charges, is sentencing. Depending on the circumstances, you may be immediately remanded into custody to begin serving your sentence, or you may be allowed a short period of time to appear for a Sentencing Hearing and get your affairs in order.
Representing All Of Los Angeles County including:
Downtown Criminal Courts Building
Van Nuys Courthouse
San Fernando Courthouse
Long Beach Courthouse