Frequently Asked Questions - Criminal
Felony Law and Motion and Petitions
Motions filed in criminal cases must comply with existing statutes, state rules, and local rules. (See, for example, Local Rules 14-19.) Some of the issues that frequently arise are discussed below.
For forms, including all Pretrial Discovery Conference forms, click on the Forms button to access.
Fresno Superior Court provides interpreting services to all trial court proceedings in criminal, traffic, and juvenile delinquency proceedings. The use of State Certified and State Registered Interpreters are provided to assist the non-English party in their court proceeding. However, due to a shortage of certified/registered interpreters statewide the court may provide a provisionally qualified interpreter (non-certified, non-registered).
Furthermore, through a grant provided by the Judicial Council, Administrative Office of the Courts, we are currently providing interpreters for indigent litigants in family law cases where a Domestic Violence restraining order was sought or issued.
If you are involved in a proceeding for a criminal, traffic, juvenile, or domestic violence matter, you may ask the clerk at the counter or the clerk in the courtroom for an interpreter. If an interpreter is not available at the time of your hearing, the Court may continue your case until an interpreter can be assigned.
If you need an interpreter in any language other than Spanish, you should notify the court as soon as possible as to your language need. If you wait until your court date, you may have to wait until an interpreter can be contacted, or your matter may be continued to a future date.
For information on obtaining an interpreter, please contact the Interpreters' Office at (559) 457-4910 or visit Interpreter Services page.
If you require the services of a sign language interpreter, you may request one at any facility, for any type of hearing you may have. This includes civil hearings, small claims hearings and jury duty. For further information on this and other Access and Accommodation needs please visit the ADA page of this site.
If you are interested in becoming a Certified Interpreter, visit AOC's Becoming an Interpreter home page.
Once a holding order has been filed in a felony case, pretrial motions normally should not be filed prior to arraignment. (See, e.g., Local Rule 3.5.1)
All motions need to be properly filed and served. Unless otherwise ordered or specified by law, generally pretrial criminal motions must be filed and served at least 10 calendar days prior to the hearing date. Opposition papers are due at least five calendar days prior to the hearing and reply papers are due at least two court days prior to that hearing. (CRC rule 4.111(a).)
There are exceptions. For example, one of the motions to suppress evidence requires service at least 10 court days prior to the hearing. (Penal Code § 1538.5(i).) Pitchess discovery motions must comply with the same extended filing requirements that exist for civil motions. (Evidence Code § 1043(a).) Motions to continue a hearing or trial normally require two-court-days' notice. (Penal Code § 1050(b).) The moving party is responsible for verifying the exact filing requirements for her or her particular motion.
If a shorter notice/filing period is desired, the attorney of record should obtain court permission, by way of an order shortening time, prior to submitting the proposed motion to the court clerk.
Occasionally the moving party will attempt to set a pretrial motion to be heard after existing trial date. The judges of this court have instructed the court clerks not to accept such motions for filing without prior judicial authorization, even if the proponent feels confident that the trial date will ultimately be continued. It is the court, not the parties, that controls trial dates. (Cf. Local Rule 3.5.1)
Papers must comply with the applicable rules of court. For example, motions that are not support with points and authorities may be deemed to be without merit. (CRC rule 4.111(b).) Only originals with original signatures will be accepted for filing. It is recommended that a copy be provided for the court's use. If the party wants a returned conformed copy, then a second copy should be provided for that purpose.
Motions filed personally by an inmate need to include a complete return address, including the inmate's jail or prison identification number.
Generally, documents may be filed only through the attorney of record. Without prior court authorization, a defendant who is represented by counsel is usually limited to filing motions related to his or her representation, such as Faretta or Marsden motions. Any other "pro per" motions submitted by a represented defendant normally will be returned unfiled by the court.
Ex parte criminal motions normally should comply with the same rules that exist for ex parte civil matters. (See CRC rule 379.)
A felony defendant who seeks to appeal his or her conviction must file a timely notice of appeal with the superior court. (See, e.g., CRC rules 8.308.) Additional requirements may exist when the conviction was based on a plea agreement. (See, for example, Penal Code § 1237.5.) Thereafter, the superior court will automatically generate the basic appellate documentation. (See rule 8.308 et seq.)
Habeas corpus petitions should comply with Local Rule 3.1.6 and CRC rule 4.550 et seq. Petitions prepared by self-represented individuals should be submitted on approved Judicial Council form MC-275. (See CRC rule 4.551(a).) Such petitions need to contain adequate objective supporting documentation and, when applicable, should affirm that existing legal and administrative options have been fully exhausted.
Habeas corpus relief normally does not apply to issues that either were or could have been resolved by way of a timely appeal. The filing of multiple unmeritorious petitions may be viewed as abuse of the writ process. (See, e.g., In re Robbins (1998) 18 Cal.4th 770, In re Harris (1993) 5 Cal.4th 813, and In re Clark (1993) 5 Cal.4th 750.)
As with motions, the petitioner must provide a signed original for filing. Inmate-generated petitions must contain the petitioner's complete return address including the inmate identification number.
Writs of mandate and prohibition are directed from a higher court to an inferior court or body. Except as otherwise provided by law, the superior court should not be asked to issue one of these writs to itself. (Cf. CCP §§ 1085(b) and 1003(b), which authorize the appellate division of the superior court to issue such writs in limited civil cases or in misdemeanor and infraction cases.)