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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 Felony is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment in a state prison or by death.
- A Misdemeanor is a lesser offense than a felony and generally is punishable by fine or imprisonment in a city or county jail rather than in a state penitentiary.
- An Infraction is resolved by paying a fine.
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).
Defendants 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.
If 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.
State 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:
Notification re Assembly Bill No. 1950-Change to Maximum Length of Formal and Informal Probation Terms
The following is not intended to provide or convey any legal advice, but is intended for informational purposes only. Should you believe your term of probation will be affected by the changes discussed below, you should seek legal advice from the attorney who handled your case or another attorney.
As of January 1, 2021, Assembly Bill No. 1950 amended Penal Code sections 1203a and 1203.1 to change the maximum, or longest, term of probation that can be imposed for most criminal offenses. Under the new changes:
- Generally, the maximum term of probation for a misdemeanor offense is no more than one year. (Pen. Code, § 1203a, subd. (a).)
- Generally, the maximum term of probation for a felony offense is no more than two years. (Pen. Code, § 1203.1, subd. (a).)
However, the new general limits on the maximum term of probation are not applicable to all persons placed on probation. (Pen. Code, §§ 1203.1, subd. (m) & 1203a, subd. (b).) Two broad categories of misdemeanor and felony offenses and three specifically named felony offenses are explicitly excluded from the new general maximum probationary term limits. (Pen. Code, §§ 1203.1, subd. (m); 1203a, subd. (b).) Therefore, if a person's only offense, or at least one of a person's offenses, falls within one or more of these exceptions, the judge may impose a probationary term that is longer than the new general maximum probationary term limits.
These changes to the maximum term of probation are applicable to all cases where probation is granted on or after January 1, 2021. Additionally, these changes also apply to all cases where a person was granted probation prior to January 1, 2021 and, if no exceptions are applicable, these changes may reduce the person's previously granted probationary term.
The law in this area is complex. Therefore, if a person has any questions regarding whether their probationary term will be shortened because of the changes made by Assembly Bill No. 1950, the person should contact the attorney who handled the case in which the person was granted probation. Please do not call the Superior Court of California, County of Fresno. The court employees answering the phones are unable to provide any legal advice.
AB 1810 and SB 215 created an opportunity for participants with mental disorders, to participate in Mental Health Diversion (MHD), as long as they meet the specific criteria.
Penal Code (PC) section 1001.36 creates a discretionary pre-trial diversion procedure for a participant charged with a misdemeanor or felony, who suffers from a mental disorder listed in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the symptoms of which can respond to treatment, if the mental disorder played a significant part in the commission of the charged offense.
Proposition 47, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act went into effect on November 5, 2014. This Act reduces most drug possession offenses and thefts of property valued under $950.00 from felonies to misdemeanors. Persons convicted of theses offenses as a felony may petition/apply to the Court for resentencing as a misdemeanor. Please see the attached instructions and forms.
Instructions and Forms
- PCR-10 Declaration Proof of Service
- PCR-80 Application for Reduction of Felony Conviction
- PCR-81 Petition for Resentencing
- PCR-82 Instructions for Completing Petition for Recall and Resentencing or Application for Reduction of Felony Conviction
The Court is anticipating a high volume of Petitions and Applications. Please be patient as it might take over 60 days before you receive notification from the Court after submitting a Petition or Application. You may make an initial inquiry to confirm receipt of your Petition or Application. However, repeated inquiries regarding the status of your Petition or Application will not be responded to.
Notification re Senate Bill No. 384 - Sex Offender Registration Act (Adults)
This Notice is to advise the public as to the Court’s procedures for petitions to terminate an applicant’s sex offender registration requirement as a result of the recent changes to California’s Sex Offender Registration Act. This Notice describes the Court’s procedures and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice.
Senate Bill No. 384 (2017-2018) changed the existing California sex offender registry into a three-tiered system. (Penal Code § 290(d).)
Below are all the informational links and forms needed for this process:
- Notification re Senate Bill No. 384 - Sex Offender Registration Act (Adults)
- SB 384 Adult Flowchart
- Physical and Mailing Addresses for Fresno County Law Enforcement Agencies and the Fresno District Attorney
- CR 415: Petition to terminate Sex Offender Registration (Penal Code § 290.5)
- CR 415-Info: Information on Filing a Petition to Terminate Sex Offender Registration
- CR 416: Proof of Service-Terminate Sex Offender Registration (Penal Code § 290.5)