What to Expect if Arrested

If or when arrested, everyone has the right to request to speak to and obtain advice from a lawyer before answering any police questions. The following lists the different levels of criminal charges that may pertain to you and what to expect if you are arrested.


If Charged with a Felony


A felony is one of the highest classes of offense and is termed as a "very serious" crime. It is defined in the California Penal Code as "any crime that is punishable by death or by imprisonment in a state prison." The very first court appearance is called the arraignment and that is where the court advises you of your charge(s). Melissa will represent you at this appearance and ensure that you understand not only the specific charges against you, but also the numerous consequences of each charge.   Melissa can and will handle all aspects of the case on your behalf, including arraignment, obtaining necessary investigation, plea negotiations, writing and arguing motions and jury trial.


If Charged with a Misdemeanor

A misdemeanor is a criminal charge that is less serious than a felony and can carry a maximum sentence of 365 days in a county jail and/or a substantial monetary fine. The very first court appearance is called the arraignment and that is where the court advises you of your charge(s).  Melissa will represent you and ensure that you understand the specific charges that the District Attorney has filed against you and ensure that you are advised of all of the consequences of that charge.  As with Felonies, Melissa can represent you throughout all stages of process, from arraignment through jury trial.  Additionally, under certain circumstances, the law provides that Melissa can even appear on your behalf for particular hearings so that you can avoid having to miss any unneccesary time away from your employment.


Juvenile-Specific Information


A juvenile refers to anyone under the age of 18. If your child has been arrested, there are a variety of ways that the case may resolve.  One possibility is that the police department may have your child and you sign a contract where your child promises to do community service or another form of time in exchange for not filing charges.   Alternatively, the police may decide to refer the case to the juvenile probation department.  If they do so, you and your child will meet with a probation officer who can handle the case either informally or refer the case to the district attorney's office for the filing of a petition.  The petition lists the charges and is called a complaint in adult court.  Finally, the police can also take your child to juvenile hall.  If your child is kept in custody, the district attorney's office has 48 hours to file a petition. If  your child is not initially detained, the charges can be filed at a later date and your child could be notified by mail. In any case it is best to consult with Melissa at the earliest stage to prevent any missteps.



Questions you may have:


* What if I think I may be arrested?

You need to contact Melissa immediately. Melissa can meet with you to discuss your particular circumstances and advise you of the best way to handle the situation.  This may involve Melissa contacting the relevant police agency or the District Attorney's office.  If it appears that your arrest is imminent, Melissa  can assist you in making arrangements for a voluntary surrender.


* What if I have been arrested?

You should refrain from talking to anyone about the facts of your case other than your attorney, Melissa van der Vijver. This includes making statements to law enforcement, cell mates and your friends and family.  Every phone call, social visit and letter that you send or receive is monitored and can be requested by the district attorney to be used against you.


* Should I provide a statement to law enforcement?

Not until you seek advice from your attorney, Melissa van der Vijver. Invoke your right to remain silent, because what you say can and will be used against you.  The natural reaction to somene accused of a crime is to try to "explain" to the police why they are not guilty or responsible for the action for which they are about to be handcuffed and placed in a police car.  

Don't do this!

The police may appear to be very sympathetic and will eagerly listen to anything that you have to tell them, however this is not genuine concern for you , but rather a ploy to get you to make incriminating statements that will hurt your defense.


* What can I do to help my case?

Do not talk about your case. Prepare a list of potential witnesses while the event is fresh in your mind.  Take photographs of any evidence (such as injuries or damage to property). Talk with Melissa about character letters that can and should be written on your behalf.  Most importantly, do not withhold information from your attorney, this will only hurt you.  All conversations with your attorney, with very limited exceptions, are confidential.  This means that when you speak with your attorney she has a duty to keep everything you tell her in confidence.  Complete disclosure is essential in order to allow Melissa to successfully defend you and for you to receive the best possible resolution.


* What is the difference between

a misdemeanor and a felony?

A misdemeanor is punishable by no more than one year in county jail and fines.  Your attorney Melissa van der Vijver can, under certain circumstances, make many of your court appearances on your behalf, meaning your appearance is waived. 


A felony is punishable by over one year and possibly prison, in addition to fines.  Your appearance is always required for a felony case and you are entitled to a preliminary (probable cause) hearing prior to your case being set for a jury trial.


* How long will the court process last?

That varies depending upon the complexity of the case as well as scheduling and discovery issues. Most cases continue for several months. During that time, discovery is reviewed and investigation is typically conducted. Your possible defenses are evaluated and the best course of action is determined.


* What is discovery?

This is the term used to describe all tangible evidence in your case. For example; Police records, photographs, videotapes and any other records.


* Will I serve time in jail?

This varies depending on numerous factors. If you are sentenced to serve time, there are different alternatives for you to fulfill your sentences. Other than serving straight time in jail, the Sheriff's Work Project (SWP) and Work Furlough are typically available and in some circumstances, Alternative Sentencing (Community service or the ASCEND Program) is an option.


* How can I clear my record ?

If you have a felony conviction, Melissa can file a petition to have it reduced to a misdemeanor and then move for expungement. If you have a misdemeanor conviction, Melissa can file a petition to get it expunged. This is wise to complete prior to applying for a new job or in consideration of career advancement.

Clearing a Criminal Record - Expungement


Expungement is the act of clearing a criminal record. This pertains to an adult who has been granted and has successfully completed probation, either by fulfilling the conditions of probation or being successfully discharged before the end of his or her probationary period.


In order to apply for an expungement, you may not be on probation or serving a sentence for any other offense.  California Penal Code (Section 1203.4) authorizes the court, in the interests of justice, to permit you to withdraw a previously entered guilty plea and have your case dismissed if you have fulfilled the conditions of probation for the entire period of probation or have been discharged from probation.

To obtain a dismissal under this section you must file a Petition in the jurisdiction where the prior conviction occurred seeking an Order by the Court to grant relief under Penal Code Section 1203.4. The court will calendar your request for a hearing before a judge. If your old case was a felony conviction you may be eligible to have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor.

You should consult Melissa prior to filing your petition.

Contact Melissa now! (530) 302-5393