Newport Beach, California Criminal Defense Lawyer
Michael M. "Mike" Brewer Frequently Asked Questions

The following information includes frequently asked criminal defense questions. The answers stated are general in nature and are not intended to apply to every situation. Each case is different and carries its own set of circumstances which must be taken into consideration by competent legal counsel. By contacting Southern California criminal defense Attorney Mike Brewer at (888) 533-5798 or (949) 863-9682, you can receive a personal consultation regarding your specific criminal defense case.

Can I still be in trouble for drunk driving, even if my BAC is below the legal limit?

Yes. It is also unlawful to drive with your normal faculties impaired. Normal faculties are those faculties of a person, such as the ability to walk, talk, judge distances, drive an automobile, make judgments, act in emergencies, etc. An example of a drunk driving case where a person would be found guilty of driving under the influence with a low blood alcohol content is when a person is taking other drugs, including prescription medication ordered by a physician, that can enhance the effect that alcohol has on the body.

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When are the police required to "read me my rights?"

In television and movies, we are all used to seeing the police "read a suspect their rights" as soon as they are arrested. This list of rights is known as a defendant's "Miranda rights," which are as follows:

  • You have the Constitutional right to remain silent
  • Anything you say can be held against you in the court of law
  • You have the right to legal counsel and that if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you, and
  • If you choose, you may have a lawyer present during interrogation.

The police are required to tell a suspect this list of rights when they plan to conduct a custodial interrogation. A custodial interrogation means that:

  • The suspect is in police custody - he or she has been arrested and is not allowed to leave and go home, and
  • The police or other law enforcement personnel are interrogating the suspect - they are asking him or her questions.

Even if you are not in circumstances that require police to "read you your rights," you still have your rights and you can still exercise your rights. When you are arrested, or even if police simply suspect you of a crime, it is a good idea to exercise your "right to remain silent" and contact Attorney Mike Brewer to represent you before talking to the police about your case.

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What happens during a bail hearing?

Upon arrest, the accused appears before a magistrate or judge for a violation of a criminal law. The magistrate or judge will conduct a pre-trial bail hearing resulting in four possible results:

  • Recognizance - This is the defendant's written promise to appear in court on the date set and abide by the terms set by the magistrate or judge. No monetary pledge, cash deposit, or security by property or professional bondsman is required.
  • Unsecured Bond - This release, pending court appearance, is based on the defendant's written agreement to appear in court on the date set and abide by the conditions set by the magistrate or judge. It is backed by an agreement by the defendant to forfeit money to the court if she or he does not appear in court on the date set.
  • Secured Bond - This is secured by either a cash deposit, a pledge of real or personal property, or a pledge by a third party that the defendant will appear in court on the date set and abide by the conditions of the release. The judge may forfeit any type of security in the event the defendant does not appear in court on the date set.
  • Ineligible for Bail - The defendant is denied a release pending court appearance.

The bail decision may be appealed to a judge who will re-examine the evidence. A violation of any agreement of release pending court appearance can result in the issuance of an "Order to Show Cause" why the release should not be revoked.

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What happens in a criminal trial?

At the trial, the prosecutor presents evidence in the form of witness testimony, documentary evidence and demonstrative evidence. Documentary evidence includes documents such as books, deeds, wills, letters and the like. Demonstrative evidence includes all kinds of exhibits, such as photographs of the victim in the case of a homicide, or the gun used in committing a robbery.

Under the Constitutional Bill of Rights, the defendant has the right to present witnesses and other evidence in defense of criminal charges. The defendant also has the right to "confront" or cross-examine the witnesses brought forward by the prosecution. The judge "charges" the jury by giving the jurors instruction on the law once the prosecutor finishes submitting the evidence. Both the prosecutor and the criminal defense attorney then sum up their arguments to the jury (closing arguments), based on the facts presented and the applicable law. The order in which these presentations happen varies from court to court.

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What is a misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are more serious than petty offenses, but much less serious than felonies. Misdemeanors typically result in imposition of such punishments as a fine or a jail sentence not exceeding a year. If a jail sentence is imposed, it is served at a local, city or county jail rather than a state or federal prison (penitentiary).

In many jurisdictions and in certain types of cases, defendants who can't afford an attorney are not entitled to a court-appointed attorney in a misdemeanor case. Unlike felonies, misdemeanors are usually handled by special courts with abbreviated procedures, such as a city court or municipal court.

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What is a felony?

Felonies are considered the most serious types of crimes, and each state has different punishments for these offenses. A standard definition of a felony is any crime punishable by more than one year in prison or by death for capital offenses like first-degree murder. Unlike misdemeanors, defendants convicted of felonies serve their sentences in a state or federal prison rather than a local, city or county jail. Additional criminal procedures apply with felonies, and the right to a court-appointed lawyer if the defendant can't afford one is one of the rights guaranteed in felony cases. Also, whether or not the defendant has to appear in court for various parts of the criminal justice process also depends on whether or not he or she is being charged with a felony.

A person convicted of a felony will usually have more restrictions on their rights (collateral consequences) than a person convicted of a misdemeanor. For example, in many jurisdictions, convicted felons cannot serve on juries. They may also lose their right to vote or to practice certain professions, such as lawyer or teacher. Felons may also be prohibited from owning guns or serving in the military, and they may also have to register as an offender (e.g., sex offender, narcotics offender).

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