Jury Service

November 20th, 2015 | Posted by admin in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Juror Pay
California pays jurors $15 every day starting on the second day of service, except employees of governmental entities who receive full pay and benefits from their employers while on jury service. Because governmental employers already pay these jurors, the courts do not pay them an additional daily fee. All jurors receive at least 34 cents for each mile they travel to court. The mileage payment, only for one-way travel, also starts on the second day. Some courts may pay you what it costs to take mass transit or local transit agencies may provide free bus or rail transportation to court. Ask your local jury office for information about your court’s payment process.

Length of Service
California has one-day or one-trial jury service (68 KB).  This means that people are not required to come to court for more than one day of jury duty unless they are assigned to a courtroom for jury selection, or serve on a trial, more than once every 12 months. Typically if you are not chosen for jury selection after one day at the courthouse then your service is done for at least one year. If you are selected to serve on a jury, after the trial is over your service is also completed for at least a year and often longer. In fact, the majority of people who report for jury service serve for just one day. The vast majority of people who actually serve on a jury find it a fascinating and rewarding experience that they would do again.

Failure to Appear
You must report for jury service if you are qualified and you have not been excused or had your service postponed.Any person who fails to respond may be fined up to $1,500. Carefully follow the instructions on the summons and contact the court if you need help.

Although many courts offer parking for jurors, it is often scarce. Free transit service may be available in your area. Check your summons or contact your local jury office for more information.

If there is an emergency at home, you can be contacted at the courthouse. In an emergency, the judge can excuse you at any time during the trial, even during deliberations, and an alternate can take your place. Of course, the emergency must be significant. The judge will make the final decision.

When you enter the courthouse, you may go through a metal detector. Your handbag, briefcase, backpack, and any containers may be x-rayed. Objects like knitting needles, scissors, nail clippers, pocket knives, and weapons are not allowed. If you have forbidden items, you may be asked to leave the courthouse and return without them. Security officers might keep items they think are hazardous. They may or may not be returned to you when you leave the courthouse. Alcoholic beverages are also not allowed.

Courtroom Requirements
We suggest you wear comfortable clothing that fits with the importance and dignity of the courtroom. Shorts, tank tops, bare midriffs, or similar dress are not allowed. Business attire is always appropriate. Check your summons or local jury office for more information. You may not use computers, cellular phones, cameras, or tape recorders in the courtroom. They may not be allowed in the courtroom even if they are shut off.

Age & Health
You may be excused if you are over 70 and have a serious health problem. If you are sick or disabled, you may postpone your service or request an excuse. Follow the directions on the summons for postponement or excuse. A doctor’s note may be required. If you need special accommodations, contact the court right away.

from California Courts

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Criminal Case – The Trial

November 13th, 2015 | Posted by admin in Criminal Law - (0 Comments)

Defendants in criminal cases (other than infractions) have the right to have a jury of their peers decide their guilt or innocence. Therefore, before trial, defendants need to decide whether to have a jury trial (where the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not) or a court trial (where the judge decides). Usually, defendants choose to have a jury trial because they want a jury of their peers to hear the evidence and decide their guilt. But sometimes there may be circumstances where a defense attorney will recommend a court trial without a jury.

Everyone accused of a crime is legally presumed to be innocent until they are convicted, either by being proved guilty at a trial or by pleading guilty before trial. This means that it is the prosecutor who has to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty and must provide proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant has the right to remain silent and that silence cannot be used against him or her.

  • Before the trial starts, the lawyers choose a jury. The process for choosing a jury is called “voir dire.” During this process the attorneys on both sides ask questions of the potential jurors to make sure the jurors will be fair and impartial.
  • Before the lawyers present evidence and witnesses, both sides have the right to give an opening statement about the case.
  • During the trial, lawyers present evidence through witnesses who testify about what they saw or know.
  • After all the evidence is presented, the lawyers give their closing arguments.
  • Finally, the jury decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The jury must find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Verdict

If the jury finds the defendant not guilty, it is called an “acquittal” and the defendant will be released. The defendant can never be tried again for the same crime. This is called “double jeopardy.” A finding of not guilty is not the same as a finding of innocence. It simply means that the jury was not convinced that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The arrest will still show on the defendant’s record, along with the acquittal. If a defendant was wrongfully arrested and charged, and he or she wants to get the arrest removed from her or his record, a hearing to determine the factual innocence of the defendant must be held in front of a judge. It is often much harder to prove factual innocence, than to raise a reasonable doubt about guilt.

If the defendant is found guilty, the defendant will be sentenced.

From California Courts

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The Arrest

When the police arrest someone (the defendant), they take him or her to jail.

Then, 1 of 3 things happens:

  • The defendant is released if the prosecutor (usually the district attorney or the city attorney) decides not to file charges; or
  • The defendant posts bail (also called a “bond”) or is released based on a promise to appear in court at a later date for arraignment. If either of these happen, the district attorney or police tell the defendant when to come to court for arraignment; or
  • The defendant stays in jail. Law enforcement officers transport the defendant to the court for arraignment.

How a Case Starts

  1. Usually, the police cite or arrest someone and write a report. This report summarizes the events leading up to the arrest or citation and provides witnesses’ names and other relevant information. Defendants generally do NOT have a right to get a copy of the arrest report, but their lawyers do. The reason for this is to protect the identity of witnesses. This is another reason why it is important that a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or felony have a lawyer to represent him or her.
  2. The prosecutor then decides whether to file charges and, if so, what charges to file. The prosecutor decides whether to charge the crime as a felony or a misdemeanor. The prosecutor can file charges on all of the crimes for which the police arrested the defendant or can decide to file fewer charges or more charges than were included in the arrest report.
  3. Because defendants have a right to a speedy trial, the prosecutor must generally file charges within 48 hours of the arrest when the defendant is in custody (in jail). Weekends, court holidays, and mandatory court closure days do not count against the 48 hours. Also, the deadline for arraignment depends on what time of the day you were arrested, so talk to a lawyer to find out exactly when the prosecutor’s deadline to file charges is.

The Arraignment

The arraignment is the first time the defendant appears in court.

At the arraignment, the judge tells the defendant:

    1. What the charges are,
    2. What his or her constitutional rights are, and
    3. That if he or she does not have enough money to hire a lawyer, the court will appoint a lawyer free of charge.

The defendant may then respond to the charges by entering a plea. Common pleas include guilty, not guilty, or no contest (also known as “nolo contendere”).

• Not Guilty means the defendant says he or she did not commit the crime. Sometimes, defendants enter a plea of not guilty as a strategic decision during plea bargaining or because they want to go to trial and force the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Guilty means the defendant admits he or she committed the crime. The judge finds the defendant guilty and enters a conviction in the court record.
  • No Contest means the defendant does not contest (disagree with) the charge. This plea has the same effect as a guilty plea, except the conviction generally cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit.

If the defendant is in custody at the time of arraignment, after the defendant enters a plea (responds to the charges), the judge will:

  1. Release the defendant on his or her “own recognizance” (which means the defendant promises to return to court on a specified date), OR
  2. Set bail and send the defendant back to the jail until the bail is posted, OR
  3. Refuse to set bail and send the defendant back to jail.

“Bail” is money or property that a defendant puts up as a promise to return for future court dates. When setting the amount of bail, the judge takes into account the seriousness of the crime, whether the defendant is a risk to the community, and whether he or she is a “flight risk” and likely to run away.

After the Arraignment

In misdemeanor cases, if the defendant enters a not guilty plea, after the arraignment and before the trial:

  • The prosecution and the defense exchange information. This is called “discovery.” Defendants may be limited in what information they are able to see, but their lawyers usually are not. This is because lawyers are required by law to protect the identity of witnesses while still preparing a defense so that the witnesses are not put in jeopardy. This is why it is so important that a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or felony be represented by a lawyer.
  • Either side can file pretrial motions, including motions to set aside (cancel) the complaint, to dismiss the case, or to prevent evidence from being used at trial.
  • The defendant can change his or her plea to guilty or no contest.
  • The judge and lawyers from both sides may talk about how the case can be resolved without going to trial.

In felony cases, after the arraignment, if the case does not settle or get dismissed the judge holds a preliminary hearing. At this hearing, the judge will decide if there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to make the defendant have to appear for a trial. If the judge decides that there is enough evidence, the prosecutor will file a document called “the Information.” Then, the defendant will be arraigned, a second time, on the Information. At that time, the defendant will enter a plea and proceed to trial. Before the trial:

  • The prosecution and the defense exchange information. This is called “discovery.” Defendants may be limited in what information they are able to see, but their lawyers usually are not. This is because lawyers are required by law to protect the identity of witnesses while still preparing a defense so that the witnesses are not put in jeopardy. This is why it is so important that a defendant charged with a misdemeanor or felony be represented by a lawyer.
  • Either side can file pretrial motions, including motions to set aside (cancel) the complaint, to dismiss the case, or to prevent evidence from being used at trial.
  • The defendant can change his or her plea to guilty or no contest.
  • The judge and lawyers from both sides may talk about how the case can be resolved without going to trial.

Next week:  The Trial

excerpts from: California Courts

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What is a typical personal injury case?

Automobile accidents, the area in which most personal injury actions arise, provide a good example of how the tort system works. You have a negligence claim in a “fault” state if you are injured by a driver who failed to exercise reasonable care, because drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care anytime they are on the road. When they breach that duty and your injury results, personal injury law says you can recoup your losses. (Note, though, that the system may be very different in states that have passed no-fault laws.)

Negligence reaches far beyond claims stemming from car accidents. It is the basis for liability in most personal injury lawsuits, including medical malpractice.

Is there any other basis for personal injury besides negligence?


Strict liability is an important and growing area of tort law. It holds designers and manufacturers strictly liable for injuries from defective products. In these cases, the injured person does not have to establish negligence of the manufacturer. Rather, you need to show that the product was designed or manufactured in a manner that made it unreasonably dangerous when used as intended.
Intentional wrongs can also be the basis of personal injury claims, though they are rarer. If someone hits you, for example, even as a practical joke, you may be able to win a suit for battery. Or if a store detective wrongly detains you for shoplifting, you may be able to win a suit for false imprisonment. While perpetrators of some of the intentional torts—assault and battery, for example—can be held criminally liable for their actions, a tort case is a civil proceeding in court brought by an individual or entity and remains totally separate from any criminal charges brought by the government.

Does a personal injury lawsuit have to be filed within a certain amount of time?

Every state has certain time limits, called “statutes of limitations,” that govern the period during which you must file a personal injury lawsuit. In some states, for example, you may have as little as one year to file a lawsuit from an automobile accident. If you miss the statutory deadline for filing a case, your case is thrown out of court.

from the American Bar Association

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Should everyone have a living trust?

No. Whether or not to create a trust is a personal decision. Young married couples without significant assets and without children, who intend to leave their assets to each other when the first one of them dies do not necessarily need a living trust. However, if the couple should die in a common accident, or shortly after each other, without a trust their estate(s) may be subject to a probate. (See discussion below.) Other persons who do not have significant assets (less than $150,000) and have very simple estate plans also do not need a living trust. Finally, anyone who believes that court supervision over the administration of his or her estate would be beneficial should not have a living trust. The greater the value of your assets (particularly if you own real estate), the greater the benefits of a living trust. Having a living trust could be important in the event of an accident or sudden illness.

How could a living trust be helpful if I become incapacitated?

If you are the trustee of your own living trust and you become incapacitated, your chosen successor trustee would manage the trust’s assets for you. If your assets were not in a living trust, however, someone else would have to manage them. How this would be accomplished might depend on whether your assets were separate or community property, and whether you have a durable financial power of attorney. (Even if you have executed a living trust, it is still recommended that you execute a durable financial power of attorney.)

If you are married or in a registered domestic partnership, assets acquired by either you or your spouse or domestic partner while married or in the partnership and while a resident of California are community property. (Note: In domestic partnerships, earned income is not treated as community property for income tax purposes.)

On the other hand, any property that you owned before your marriage or registration of your partnership, or that you received as a gift or inheritance during the marriage or partnership, and the earnings or appreciation associated with such property, would probably be your separate property.

In California, most transactions concerning community property could be managed by your spouse or registered domestic partner if he or she is competent. If you own separate property (or are not married or in a registered domestic partnership) and you become incapacitated, such assets could be managed by an agent or attorney-in-fact under a durable power of attorney (See #12). Without planning, however, some or all of your financial matters would be subject to a probate court proceeding, generally called a conservatorship.

During the conservatorship process, a judge could determine that you were unable to manage your own finances or to resist fraud or undue influence. The court would then appoint someone (a conservator) to manage your assets for you. And the conservator would report back to the court on a regular basis.

Your conservator might be someone whom you previously nominated, or, if no one had been nominated, it might be your spouse, registered domestic partner or another family member. If none of those persons are available, then it might be the public guardian.

Conservatorship proceedings are designed to help protect you at a time when you are vulnerable or incapable of managing your assets. However, they are also public in nature and can be costly because of the substantial court intervention. In addition, conservatorship proceedings may be less flexible in managing real estate or other interests than a well-managed living trust.

from the California State Bar

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