We were recently retained for a case at the Westminster Courthouse where a person decided to handle his own case without a lawyer. The case was a first-time DUI. This DUI did not involve an accident, and the person had a clean criminal record. On the surface, it should have been okay for him to go to court, take a guilty plea, and expect no jail time. That was his goal. However, things took a turn when he initially went to court on his first day, which was supposed to be his arraignment date. His case was not filed. He received a piece of paper indicating that his case was still under review. He was then told to check back. This is where the problems began. Eventually, he ended up with a dui warrant for his arrest for failure to appear.
Our client was a professional in his thirties working a white-collar job.
Charges or Allegations:
The legal issue here was not the initial DUI, but our client’s failure to appear and the resulting arrest or bench warrant. Because of the warrant, if he had any law enforcement contact, they would have to take him into custody and hold him until his court date. Additionally, he faced a potential new charge of failure to appear.
The specific legal hurdle was to get rid of the arrest warrant or bench warrant before our client had any law enforcement contact. If he did, it would mean he would be taken to jail for a few days.
Defense Strategy and Case Proceedings:
We had to get into the courthouse, put the case on the calendar, and make a motion to quash the bench warrant, all before he had any contact with the police. Initially, our client was given a court appearance date by the arresting officer. However, these dates are only estimations. In this case, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was not on time in reviewing the case. When our client went to court on his first date, he found out his case was not filed. Eventually, his case was filed, but the prosecutor’s notification may have been lost in the mail. Because of this, he received no notice, and a bench warrant was issued when he was not present in court.
Ultimately, we were able to quash or recall the warrant for our client. This meant that he would not be arrested if he had any law enforcement contact. We achieved this without needing him present in court.
Role of Your Firm:
We went to the Westminster courthouse and first put the case on the calendar. We went through the clerk’s office before seeing the judge and had our file walked over to the courtroom. Once our case was called, we requested to quash the bench warrants. After quashing the bench warrant, we proceeded with the client’s DUI case.
By recalling our client’s bench warrants, we alleviated a lot of stress. Our average client does not break the law and has a clean criminal record. However, being labeled a fugitive and ordered to be taken in upon contact by any law officer is substantially stressful. We were able to alleviate this stress for our client, all without needing him to come to court, under Penal Code 977A.
The insights and lessons from this case emphasize the importance of keeping track of dates and not solely relying on the District Attorney’s office to send a piece of mail. If your case is not filed, take responsibility and continue to check the court system or the District Attorney’s Office to learn the status of your case.
What are the potential consequences of handling a DUI case without legal representation?
There are many risks associated with self-representation. These risks often involve dealing with various bureaucracies at the court. One such risk is missing potential court dates, as mentioned above. Additionally, there may be unequal negotiation power between the District Attorney and someone not aware of a baseline for the offer.
How common is it for DUI cases to not be filed by the arraignment date, and what should one do in such a scenario?
It is very common for DUI cases not to be filed by the arraignment date. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office frequently gives out a standard piece of paper informing people about the status of their case. If a person shows up to court and their case is not on the calendar, they need to visit the prosecuting agency. In 95% of cases, this will be the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, where they can obtain a piece of paper with instructions on how to follow up with their case. This percentage accounts for the fact that there are different agencies prosecuting cases, including the Anaheim City Attorney or municipal cases.
If an arrest or bench warrant is issued due to a misunderstanding or administrative error, what are the steps to rectify this situation?
If an arrest or bench warrant is issued due to a misunderstanding, it is important to go to court, see a clerk, add the case back to the calendar, and see a judge about your case.
What are the implications of having a bench warrant for failure to appear, in terms of future background checks or employment?
Potential employers can see bench warrants for failure to appear during background checks, as well as any convictions. Many people misunderstand that if a case is pending without a conviction, it should not appear on a background check. However, this is not the case.
How can one ensure effective communication with the District Attorney’s office to avoid missed notifications, as mentioned in the case?
The process is straightforward. When given the piece of paper, it includes a phone number to call and check. Additionally, one can check the court case status. It’s important to check both systems because your case may not be handled by the District Attorney’s Office; it could be a municipal or city attorney’s case. Therefore, it’s important to check both the court and the prosecuting agency.
Call to Action:
If you have an arrest warrant out for your case, or a pending first court date or arraignment, with no case filed, you are welcome to give our office a call.