Fresno Court Reporters
Criminal cases range from relatively minor offenses such as traffic infractions to serious ones like robbery and murder. The state makes the charge against someone accused of committing a crime because a crime is considered an act against society. The prosecuting attorney presents the charge against the accused person (defendant) on behalf of the state (plaintiff), and must prove to the judge or jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A criminal case begins when a prosecutor files formal charges, a person is arrested, or a grand jury issues an indictment.
If a defendant, the person accused of a crime, is in custody, he or she has the right to an arraignment within 48 hours of being arrested. At this hearing the judge will officially tell defendants about their constitutional rights and explain the charges against them. Also, bail (property temporarily given to ensure that a person released from custody will return at an appointed time) may be raised or lowered. The defendant will be asked to plead to the charges against them: guilty, not guilty, or, in some cases, nolo contendere (the person does not contest the charges, which legally is the same as a guilty plea).
MisdemeanorsDefendants who plead guilty to a misdemeanor may be sentenced during the arraignment, unless the judge wishes to postpone sentencing in order to study a probation report. During the arraignment, if a defendant pleads not guilty to a misdemeanor, the judge will set the date for a trial. The trial will be held within 30 days if the defendant is in custody or within 45 days if the defendant is not in custody-unless the defendant waives the right to a speedy trial.
FeloniesIf a defendant pleads guilty to a felony at the arraignment, he or she must be represented by an attorney (unless the defendant, in a noncapital case, waives the right to one). After a guilty plea, the judge has the option to keep the case in that court for sentencing or probation or to transfer the case to a superior court. If a defendant pleads not guilty to a felony, a preliminary hearing is held. At this hearing the district attorney must show evidence that the defendant committed a felony and should be brought to trial. If the judge decides there is enough evidence, the defendant will be arraigned a second time in superior court, where the defendant again will be formally charged, rights will be explained, and a plea will be made.
SentencesState and local laws define crimes and specify punishment. The maximum sentence for an infraction is a fine; for a misdemeanor it is up to one year in a county jail; and for a felony it is time in a state prison or, for some murders, death. Some counties offer "diversion" programs that allow a judge to order a defendant to get medical treatment or counseling or to do community service work. The diversion program may take the place of a fine or jail sentence in certain types of misdemeanor and felony cases.
Fresno Superior Court provides interpreting services to all trial court proceedings in criminal, traffic, and juvenile delinquency proceedings. For more information, click on the FAQ button on this page.
For a Request for Criminal Jury Instructions:The Criminal Department is dedicated to providing public service with the highest standard of professionalism. We are committed to supporting the court policies and directives through the accurate and timely record keeping of all documents and orders of the court. In providing these services, the needs of the public will be addressed with clarity, impartiality and confidentiality. We are dedicated to treating each individual with the utmost respect in a positive atmosphere. This department firmly believes that with efficiency comes trust.