How to Get a Preview of Your Sentence Before You Decide to Plead Guilty

If you go to court alone on a minor misdemeanor or traffic ticket court case, chances are that you have no idea what the real penalty for your charge might be. You’ve heard stories, and maybe you found out the maximum penalty, but you know that you probably will not get the max. Fine? Probation? Jail? What?

Accused gets an indicated sentence

Accused gets an indicated sentence

What will you get for that driving on a suspend license charge if you plead guilty? Or how about for that petty theft charge? Jail, probation? Beating? Flogging? Deportation?

Maybe you’re thinking if it is a fine only, “im guilty”. But if it means jail, “im getta a lawyer!”. How will you know what to do if all the judge will tell you is the max penalty? It would be dumb to plead guilty blindly – especially if you may have a defense.

Turns out that there is a trick to getting the judge to tell you what will happen if you plead guilty in advance. You have to ask for an “INDICATED SENTENCE.”

An “indicated sentence” is a complex way of saying preview. (Don’t you wish court was as intuitive as an Iphone?) If you ask for one, almost all judges will give a defendant an Indicated Sentence to think about before pleading guilty or not guilty.

If you ask for an indicated sentence, the judge will tell you what he or she is thinking about. It’s not binding, but usually it is honest. You can accept or reject an indicated sentence. If you reject it, you are going to get a trial date (or further pre trial date).

Attorneys ask for an indicated sentence frequently in court. Especially if they do not know what is going on in a case. Sometimes, an attorney will ask for indicated sentences on several potential amendments to a criminal complaint, such as “Your honor, may I have an indicated sentence on a trespassing vs. a petty theft charge?”.

Once an attorney gets an indicated sentence from a judge, he or she can communicate that “realistic, but not guaranteed sentence” to the client for the client to consider – accept the pre trial indicated sentence and plead out – or risk a jury trial and a worse sentence.

But you can ask for an indicated sentence to – even in your first court date without an attorney. If you need more time to consider the chances of winning at trial or to find a defense attorney to help you, dont be afraid to ask for it. You can always get more time to look for an attorney.

Visit Traffic Court Free Self Help. Free Attorney Case Reviews.

If you get an indicated sentence from a judge and have to return to court at a later date to accept it – you need to incorporate your indicated sentence into your plea, like this: “Your honor, I would like to change my plea to guilty based upon the understanding that the court will follow its indicated sentence as stated to me at the last court date.” By doing that, you maintain a reservation in case the judge goes bizerk on you.

If you need to shop for an attorney after going to an arraignment court date alone and getting an indicated sentence, you can ask for a continuance of the arraignment. It is very common for judges to grant defendants in minor misdemeanor and traffic ticket cases time to talk with an attorney before they are forced to enter a plea.

Questions? Leave a comment.

Posted in Free Legal Self Help, Going to Court, probation, Traffic Court Trials | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Need to Search for an Orange County Warrant?

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Criminal arrest or bench Warrants are generally orders from a court directing law enforcement to take a person into custody. They usually originate from a pending court case. Locating information on an Orange County warrant and the case it comes from is now easier than ever.

Many California Courts do not allow the public to have free online access to warrant information, and this makes it difficult for the everyday public to solve old warrant problems on their own.

But Orange County is different!

The Orange County Superior Court now allows free and easy on-line access to criminal and traffic court cases, which is the source of nearly all orange county warrants.

Previously, limited information on a warrant was available from the Orange County Sheriffs Office at The information provided was of limited use, because it did not give any details on the reason why the warrant was issued, or the status of the underlying court case.

Now, using the Orange County Superior Court’s web site, you can get information on not only the warrant, but also details on the case the resulted in the warrant. Details now available include:

1) the case #;

2) date of violation;

3) status of the defendant; and

4) charges involved in the case.

These details are necessary for any person trying to clear up a warrant problem, because it helps identify what needs to be done to resolve a case.
To search for an Orange County warrant on a specific case or defendant, go to the courts web site at:, click the link on the left for “Case Info”, and follow the instructions to traffic/criminal case info.

Once there, you can search by defendant name, case #, or drivers license # and date of birth.

In most misdemeanor and traffic court cases, CA Penal Code section 977 allows an attorney to appear in court for a defendant. Defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney can ask the court to appoint a Public Defender once they get the case on the court’s calendar and make a court appearance.

If you have specific questions about your case, you should contact the court clerk’s office at the courthouse where your case is located or an attorney familiar with the case. You may have to check with both the criminal and the traffic divisions of the court.

Need help with a traffic court problem, Suspended License, Failure to Appear or Warrant? can help? Maybe. Get a Free Attorney Case Review

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Posted in Going to Court, Orange County, Warrant Information, Warrant Searches | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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7 Questions You Should Ask Your Public Defender Before Deciding on a Plea

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After 14 years of real criminal courtroom work, I’ve started to realize that there is a common pattern with Defendants who get pissed off at their Public Defenders and who feel they got robbed by the system themselves.

The pattern is this – the public defender is so busy that they are unable to give a client super detailed personal attention, and the public defender makes the decision on what is best for the client on their own.

Then, the public defender subtly forces the client to go along with the plan that is good for the client, but not fully explained.

Because the Defendant does not understand what is happening, or why it is happening, they feel screwed.

My experience shows that a truly hard working public defender is going to do the right thing for the client, even if the client does not understand it. At times, they may have to get things done fast, and routine cases may get very little personal attention. Some public defenders can resolve 20, 30 cases in one morning. They are probably all done right, but they are done fast, without personal attention.

But here are a few real questions that you should ask your public defender to more fully understand what is going on in your case, even if you only get 5 minutes in the courtroom hallway. It’s not uncommon to talk to an attorney in the hallway, so dont be afraid to do it.

With these questions, if you can get good answers, you can make informed decisions in seconds:

1) What is the evidence against me?

You need to know what the evidence in court would be if you had a jury trial. Many defendants do not understand what evidence there really is, and as a result, some have a false impression of how bad things really are.

2) What is the normal sentence for the case as it is now?

In many criminal cases, the original charges are changed before the case ends. Sometimes the charges get reduced, sometimes new charges are added. You need to know what most people get if nothing changes, and you plead Guilty to everything on the complaint (called “Pleading to the ‘Sheet’”).

3) What are my chances at a trial?

You need to know what an experienced, licensed, Attorney personally thinks about whether or not you can win a trial. After all, they are there everyday, and you are not.

4) Has the prosecutor made any offers?

Usually, a prosecutor will make an offer to end a criminal case at the first court date, called the “arraignment”. This offer sometimes changes. But many cases are resolved at teh first court date based on the initial offer from the prosecutor.

5) What are my options, and what is your recommendation?

You want to know what the Attorney thinks you should do. Even if you disagree, it is valuable knowledge.

6) Why can’t you talk the prosecutor into something better?

Inspire the Public Defender to try harder! Or at the very least get a detailed description as to what the problem or obstacle maybe.

7) Is There Any Evidence I Can Help You Find or Understand?

A Defendant should not interfere with the Attorney’s decisions about what evidence is important and what is not. But the Defendant should definitely seek to start a conversation about the types of evidence that may help you.

There maybe types of helpful evidence that you know about but that your public defender does not know. For example, if there is another friend you saw at the club that night who can verify your drinking pattern before you left, your public defender will not have that info if you do not discuss it. You may have to help jump start the conversation by asking if you can help.

Asking if you can help find evidence may also prompt the Attorney to think of other items or evidence he/she may need, such as a letter from an employer that would help your request

There you have it. Free Legal Self Help info. With these few questions, you can get enough understanding on your case to make informed decisions with out wasting time.

Questions? Leave a reply below.

More Info:

The San Francisco County Public Defenders Office provides a great deal of info and resources.

Posted in Felony, Going to Court, Public Defenders | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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Tips for Dealing with Traffic Ticket and Misdemeanor Warrants. 2014 Update

California courts are still issuing warrants from their Traffic Court and Criminal divisions for defendants who fail to appear for routine court appearances. Defendants who let warrants go without addressing them risk arrest and vehicle impound.

Here are some quick tips that may help people who have just discovered they have a warrant from a court due to a missed court date or failure to pay a fine.

1. Get the Case Details.

Warrants in criminal and traffic courts are usually issued as a result of a problem in a case. To solve the problem, it is helpful to a defendant to get the Case Number, the Charges in the Case, and the Contact Info and Address of the Courthouse Where the Case is Pending. In some courts, this information can be found on line at the court’s web site. In other courts, a personal visit or telephone call may be required to get case details.

2. Figure Out What Kind of Warrant It Is. Mandatory Appearance or Not?

Most traffic court and criminal misdemeanor warrants require a court appearance to resolve. Sometimes, a payment of bail to secure future court appearances or a jail visit is also required.

But many minor offense warrants, such as a warrant issued for a failure to appear on a traffic ticket, can be resolved by making a payment to the court that ends the case. When a warrant can be cleared, and its case closed, by payment in person court appearances may not be necessary.

To figure out if your warrant requires a court appearance, contact the court clerk’s office once you have your case details and ask. Ask the court clerk if your warrant can be cleared and case closed by a fine payment.

Many minor traffic court warrant problems can be solved in one day with a credit or debit card payment to the court. Don’t be afraid to contact the court clerk to see if a warrant can be cleared by fine payment.

If you discover that your case cannot be resolved by payment alone, and the court requires a court appearance and/or bail posting, read on.

3. Determine How to Get the Case on the Court’s Schedule Again.

In cases where a warrant requires posting of bail or a personal court appearance, it is usually up to the Defendant to get the case on the court’s schedule for action. In many minor warrant cases, an Attorney hired by the Defendant can make the required court appearance or take the Defendant’s bail posting to the court.

Most defendants with warrants will need to ask the court to recall the warrant in order to stay out of jail. This may be done by Defendant alone or by an Attorney for the Defendant. But to make the request, a court date must be scheduled on the case.

The procedure for getting a traffic or misdemeanor warrant case on a court calendar will vary from court to court. IN some courts, walk in appearances are allowed on minor warrant cases so that a defendant can ask for recall of the warrant right away. In other courts, the Defendant will have to fill out a calendar request form.

The court clerks office at the specific courthouse where the case is pending can tell you how to get a case “back on calendar for a warrant recall request.”

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.

Defendants with warrants can hire a private defense attorney to represent them and appear in court for them. In many cases, an attorney can get a minor warrant recalled without a defendant having to appear in person. Even in probation violation cases, when the facts are right and the defendant takes voluntary action, court appearances can be avoided with an attorney’s help. Shop around, get different opinions all in one day. Free Attorney Case Review

If you previously had a public defender assigned to your case that now has a warrant, contact the public defender’s office right away. It is very likely that your former public defender was updated on the status of your case and can give you clear instructions on what to do to resolve a warrant problem.

OK – there you go. Some tips that may help you solve a warrant problem. They won’t solve it for you though! Taking action yourself right now is the best course.

More Help:

Free Warrant Search Resources

Posted in Probation Violations, Warrant Information, Warrant Searches | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What is a Vehicle Code 40508a Warrant? Big Trouble That is Easily Fixed.

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Many people dealing with traffic ticket problems in California have searched court web sites and/or Department of Motor Vehicle driver history reports to discover that they have a “Veh Code 40508a Warrant” on their driving record(s).

Here is an explanation of what “40508a warrants” are, and how to take care of them.

“Veh Code 40508a” is an abbreviation for California Vehicle Code section 40508(a).

California Vehicle Code section 40508(a) makes it a misdemeanor crime to fail to appear in court on a written promise to do so. The “written promise” is generally a signed citation or traffic ticket. In the real word, every day people come in to contact with this “40508a” law when they miss a deadline to take care of a traffic ticket.

Generally, it happens like this: Driver gets pulled over by police; the officer writes up a citation listing one or more alleged vehicle code violations and a court date; the officer requires the driver to sign the ticket, and thereby formally accept legal notice of the court date. By signing a traffic ticket, a driver is making a legal promise to appear in court on the date listed, in exchange for not being taken to jail.

So long as the traffic ticket is paid, or the driver makes a court appearance by the deadline on the signed ticket, there is no problem with Vehicle Code section 40508a. However, everything changes if the deadline is missed and there is a Failure to Appear (FTA) by the driver.

Generally, when a defendant fails to appear in court on time, or pay the bail on a traffic ticket citation on time, the court adds a new charge to the case – a misdemeanor violation of California Vehicle Code 40508a.

A failure to appear charge under Vehicle Code 40508(a) always starts out as a misdemeanor, but can be reduced by the court to an infraction. Infractions are not technically crimes, but misdemeanors are crimes.

Because the deadline to appear in court is listed on the signed traffic ticket, this FTA charge is added when the date is missed, regardless of whether or not the court has sent anything to the driver. California courts are not required to send Courtesy Notices to drivers before adding a failure to appear charge to a case.

Once the Failure to Appear charge is added, most courts will then also issue an administrative court order for the arrest of the defendant. This order for arrest is called a “Warrant”, and when a warrant is issued after a FTA, it is called a VC 40508a warrant, and is listed as such on DMV records and many court web sites.

On most 40508a warrant cases, a court appearance is necessary to get the warrant recalled. In some cases, the court will require the defendant to post a bail as deposit before a warrant is recalled. In most traffic court and misdemeanor cases, an attorney can appear in court for a defendant, even when there is a warrant.

Thus to get a 40508a warrant cleared – the solution is to make a personal court appearance and in some cases, post or pay bail. Of course the warrant can also be cleared by the arrest of the defendant, and that is how many people end up dealing with their warrant. Some people with 40508a warrants will have to do some jail time. But that is not the best way to take care of the problem.

If you get arrested on the side of the road for a Veh Code 40508a warrant, your vehicle will be impounded also, greatly increasing the cost and pain of the experience. This is especially true of you end up losing your girlfriend’s car on the way to work. Don’t let this happen to you.

Voluntary action can help you avoid the worst consequences.

Since a Vehicle Code 40508a warrant is issued because of the addition of a FTA misdemeanor charge, getting the warrant recalled is only part of the solution. A Defendant with a 40508a warrant must take care of the warrant, the underlying case, and the failure to appear charge to resolve the problem completely. In most cases, this can all be done at once, often in a single court appearance.

A conviction of a 40508a FTA charge can result in jail time, increased fines, and derogatory listings on DMV and background records. It is a crime, unless reduced to an infraction by the court prior to conviction. When a defendant takes care of a 40508a warrant correctly, a reduction of the failure to appear charge to a less serious infraction, or even dismissal of the FTA charge is common.

If you have a Vehicle Code section 40508(a) warrant and are interested in dealing with it without going to court yourself, or just want to know your options, request a Free Attorney Case Review from Do not delay. Some 40508a warrant problems can be cured in one day. Sometimes in a couple of hours. But even if it takes longer, starting now is a good idea.

More info:

How to Get a Copy of Your California Driving Record

Posted in Going to Court, Missed Court Dates, Suspended Drivers License, Warrant Information | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

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