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The Day of Your Court Hearing
Arriving at the Courthouse:
  • You will be required to submit to entrance security screening;
  • Check the calendar listing for your name and courtroom ;
  • Report directly to the courtroom as indicated; and
  • If your name is not on the calendar listing, check in at the Clerk’s Office for further instructions.
You should plan to arrive at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to your scheduled court appearance. Parking is very limited at the Salinas court location. You should also allow time for passing through entrance security screening.

Checking the Calendar List

There are calendars posted outside of every courtroom as well as a central calendar board with all of the calendars for each courtroom. You must find your name on one of the calendar lists to identify which courtroom you must report to. If you do not find your name on the calendar, you must check in with the Clerk’s Office for further instructions.

If you have an attorney, he/she may confer with you before your court hearing. This is the opportunity for you to ask him/her any last minute questions.

Before Entering the Courtroom

The bailiff will announce when the courtroom is open for the next court session and provide you with instructions.

Entering the Courtroom

Upon arriving in the Courtroom, the bailiff will instruct you to:
  • Turn cellular telephones off while in the courtroom;
  • Food and/or beverages are not allowed in the courtroom;
  • Remove hats, sunglasses and chewing gum; and
  • Speak softly and maintain a professional demeanor.
When Your Case Is Called:
  • As soon as your name is called, promptly stand up and walk toward the counsel table; the bailiff will signal you to approach the center of the courtroom.
  • It is always important to show respect for the court. Answer the judge's questions in an audible and clear voice. Attorneys address the judge as "Your Honor." As a defendant, you may address the Judge as “Your Honor” as well.



The Courtroom Guide



Court Interpreter Services
California law mandates that any person who is charged with a crime and is unable to understand English has a right to an interpreter throughout the proceedings. A Spanish interpreter is regularly present at the arraignment calendar and other designated calendars, as needed. The Court also provides other language interpreters, including sign language interpreters.

If you need the services of a court interpreter inform the Judge at the time of your court hearing, and state the name of the language you speak. Your case may be continued to another day to provide the court time to schedule an interpreter that speaks your language.


Court-Appointed Attorney in Criminal Proceedings
California law mandates that all defendants in criminal hearings are entitled to legal representation. Many defendants retain the services of a private attorney and pay the attorney directly. For defendants who cannot afford private attorneys, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration form to assist the Judge in determining if you are financially eligible for indigent defense services. Prior to the beginning of the court session, the bailiff will announce that individuals requesting a court appointed attorney will need to complete a Financial Declaration form before their name is called by the Judge. If eligible, the Court will appoint an attorney for any defendant who needs representation through the Office of the Public Defender or Alternate Public Defender’s Office.

The Court cannot recommend an attorney. An attorney referral service hand out will be provided to you on the day of your court appearance that offer, low-cost or no-cost options information to qualifying persons.


Arraignment
The Arraignment is generally the first court hearing on a criminal Complaint, Information, Indictment or Petition for Violation of Probation.

When your name is called by the Judge, please proceed promptly to counsel table and follow the instructions of the bailiff.

The Judge will then inform you of the charge(s) you are facing and advise you of your constitutional rights to a jury or court trial, the right to a court appointed attorney, the presumption of innocence, etc. The Judge will then ask how you plea to the charge or charges.

Pleas
  • A plea of GUILTY means it is an admission of guilt to the charge(s) against you.
  • A plea of NO CONTEST means that you do not wish to contest the charge(s) against you. Although such a plea will result in your conviction, you will not be admitting any liability should there be a subsequent lawsuit filed for personal injury or property damage arising from the incident for which you were cited. An example of this would be a traffic accident. If you were the driver who was charged with failure to yield the right-of-way, a No Contest plea to this charge is not an admission of guilt, and could not be used against you in any lawsuit for damages arising from the accident.
  • A plea of NOT GUILTY means that you feel you have a defense to the charge(s) or believe the charge(s) is incorrect. You will be asked if you will be hiring an attorney to represent you or if you need a court-appointed attorney.
All further hearings are determined by whether the defendant is charged with a felony or misdemeanor.

Refer to the Misdemeanor Courtroom Process or the Felony Courtroom Process for further information.



Misdemeanor Court
Misdemeanor Arraignment

At a misdemeanor arraignment, the defendant enters a plea to the charge; guilty, no contest or not guilty.

When a plea of Guilty or No Contest is entered, the defendant will be asked if he/she wishes to be sentenced immediately or return another day for the sentence to be imposed. The defendant will be given an opportunity to tell the Judge about any mitigating circumstances surrounding the charge which might affect the sentence.

When a plea of Not Guilty is entered, the defendant will be asked if they will be hiring an attorney, representing themselves or requesting a court-appointed attorney. If the defendant is requesting a court-appointed attorney, the court will review the completed Financial Declaration form and will make a determination if the defendant qualifies for the services of a court-appointed attorney.
  • If the defendant does not qualify, the case will be continued for ”Further Arraignment” to provide an opportunity for the defendant to contact a private attorney;
  • If the defendant qualifies, the judge will appoint the Public Defender and the case will be continued 2 – 3 weeks for a hearing referred to as a “Pretrial Conference”.
Pretrial Conference

A Pretrial conference is a meeting with the judge, district attorney (prosecutor) and defense attorney to discuss the settlement of the case. In complex cases, the pretrial conference is held to discuss constitutional issues (confessions, searches, identification, etc). These issues are generally presented to the court through written "motions" (e.g., Motion to Suppress Evidence, etc.).

Trial (Judge or Jury)

A trial is a proceeding in which the prosecutor must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor calls all the witnesses necessary to prove the crime. Both the defendant and the prosecutor (representing the People of the State of California) have the right to a trial by a jury. Sometimes both sides agree that a judge may listen to the evidence and decide the case without a jury which is referred to as a "Court Trial". In a jury trial, the jury is the "trier of fact;" in a court trial, the “trier of fact” is the judge. After the evidence is presented, the judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime. If the defendant is found not guilty, the case ends. If the defendant is found guilty, a sentencing date will be set.

Sentencing

At the time of sentencing, the Judge will consider the facts of the case to determine the appropriate sentence. The Judge will consult "sentencing guidelines", which aid the court in deciding upon an appropriate sentence. The Judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, and/or a county jail sentence. The Judge must also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered any losses.

Example of a driving under the influence (DUI) sentence:

A misdemeanor sentence, for example a DUI 1st conviction will generally include:
  • Informal (Court) Probation between 3 to 5 years;
  • County Jail Sentence;
  • Fine payable through the Monterey County Revenue Division;
  • Referral to an alcohol program;
  • Installation of an Inter-lock device; and
  • Other terms
The Court will report the DUI conviction to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A DUI conviction remains on your DMV record for ten (10) years and can be alleged as a prior conviction for ten (10) years.

Note: The Department of Motor Vehicles may impose additional sanctions or requirements (license suspension, proof of insurance, etc.).



Felony Court
Felony Arraignment (Complaint)

At a felony arraignment, the defendant enters a plea to the charge; guilty, no contest or not guilty. The defendant is advised of his/her right to a preliminary hearing within 10 court days of the arraignment. If the defendant requests a court-appointed attorney, the court will review that request at the time of the arraignment.

Preliminary Hearing

This is a contested hearing before a judge, sometimes called a "probable cause hearing." The prosecutor presents witnesses to establish that there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed and that the defendant committed the crime. Because the burden of proof is much less than at a trial, the prosecutor generally does not call all potential witnesses to testify at the "prelim;" generally, the victim, some eye witnesses and some of the investigating officers on the case may testify. The defendant has an attorney, can cross examine the witnesses, and can present his/her own evidence (including witnesses). If probable cause is established, the defendant is "bound over" or “held to answer” for trial. If the Judge decides that there is not probable cause that the defendant committed the crime, the charge can be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor. A defendant can decide to waive a Preliminary Hearing. If this occurs, the case will go directly to arraignment.

Arraignment (Information)

After the case is "bound over" or “held to answer”, the defendant is again arraigned (given formal notice of the charges against him/her). The charging document is called an Information. He/she is again advised of his/her constitutional rights, and enters a plea to the charge (not guilty, guilty or no contest).

Pretrial Conference

As with misdemeanors, the Judge is called upon to resolve various pretrial issues, some of which determine whether the case will continue to a trial, be resolved with a plea, or be dismissed.

Trial (Judge or Jury)

A trial is a proceeding in which the prosecutor must present evidence to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor calls all the witnesses necessary to prove the crime. Both the defendant and the prosecutor (representing the People of the State of California) have the right to a trial by a jury. Sometimes both sides agree to let a judge listen to the evidence and decide the case without a jury which is referred to as a "Court Trial". In a jury trial, the jury is the "trier of fact;" in a court trial, the “trier of fact” is the judge. After the evidence is presented, the judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime. If the defendant is found not guilty, the case ends. If the defendant is found guilty, a sentencing date will be set.

Pre-Sentence Investigation and Report

The probation department prepares a report for the Judge summarizing the crime, and the defendant's personal and criminal backgrounds. Generally, the victim is contacted for a recommendation of sentence. The probation officer concludes the report with a recommended sentence.

Sentencing

Sentencing in California varies with the crime and can be the most confusing part of the criminal process. At the time of sentencing, the Judge will consider the information in the pre-sentence report before determining the sentence. The parties may offer additional evidence relevant to the Judge's sentencing decision. The Judge will consult "sentencing guidelines", which aid the court in deciding upon an appropriate sentence. The Judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, a sentence to county jail or prison, or a combination. The Judge must also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered any physical or financial losses.



Domestic Violence Court
The Monterey County Superior Court operates a specialized court for criminal domestic violence charges. Domestic Violence Court was created to provide specialization and efficiency in the handling of the increasing number of domestic violence cases being filed in the County.

One significant difference in the Domestic Violence Court is that the defendant may be served with a Criminal Protective Order. A Criminal Protective Order is a restraining order ordering the defendant to stay away from the alleged victim(s) with other conditions.

For additional information on other types of restraining orders, please visit the Court’s Self-Help Center section.

What is a Criminal Protective Order? (CPO)

A criminal domestic violence protective order is a restraining order issued under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. This act was passed to protect victims of domestic violence.

The Judge may order a criminal protective order to protect the victim(s) that has a relationship with the defendant and fits one of the following categories:
  • Relative
  • Living together
  • Relative by marriage
  • Children in common
  • Dating
Arraignments

The courtroom proceedings are similar to the misdemeanor proceedings or felony proceedings based on the pending charges.

Sentencing requirements:

Penal Code Section 1203.97, requires that if a person is granted probation for a domestic related charge, as defined in Section 6211 of the Family Code, the terms of probation shall include:
  • A minimum period of probation for 36 months, which may include a period of formal probation. Formal probation requires the defendant to report to a probation officer;
  • A criminal court protective order protecting the victim from further acts of violence, threats, stalking, sexual abuse, and harassment, and, if appropriate, containing residence exclusion or stay-away conditions;
  • Jail or Prison (based on the charge misdemeanor or felony);
  • Participation in a 52 week batterer’s treatment program, with periodic progress reports by the program to the court;
  • Pay fees to the Domestic Violence Restraining Order Reimbursement Fund, the Domestic Violence Training and Education Fund and a Victim Restitution Fund; and
  • Other court orders as required by statute or as deemed necessary.
To Remove a Criminal Protective Order

If you are the Protected Person, contact the Office of the District Attorney – Victim – Witness Assistance Unit to assist you.

If you are the defendant, contact your attorney or schedule a court appearance date to request the Criminal Protective Order be modified.



Drug Court
The Monterey County Superior Court operates a specialized court for drug related charges. Drug Treatment Court was created to provide specialization and efficiency in the handling of the increasing number of drug related cases being filed in the County. The judicial officer in a Drug Treatment Court develops expertise in handling issues unique to drug cases - providing sensitive, consistent sentencing and firm oversight on each case.

Deferred Entry of Judgment Drug Program – Misdemeanors (PC §1000.1)

One common form of diversion is called Deferred Entry of Judgment or DEJ. It is usually offered to a first-time drug offender who is only charged with under the influence or simple possession of drugs for personal use.

The Deferred Entry of Judgment program is implemented through collaboration between the Superior Court, Monterey County Probation Department, Monterey County Behavioral Health services, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office and treatment providers.

In court, the eligible defendant enters a guilty plea to the underlying charge(s). The Judge places the defendant on a deferred entry of judgment (diversion) program for a maximum of 18 months. Defendant(s) are referred to the court approved program, which includes mandatory counseling sessions at Valley Health Associates.

Upon successful completion of a deferred entry of judgment program, the arrest upon which the judgment was deferred shall be deemed to have never occurred. The defendant may indicate in response to any question concerning his or her prior criminal record that he or she was not arrested or granted deferred entry of judgment for the offense, except as specified in Penal Code section 1001 subdivision (b). A record pertaining to an arrest resulting in successful completion of a deferred entry of judgment program shall not, without the defendant's consent, be used in any way that could result in the denial of any employment, benefit, license, or certificate.

Note: Deferred entry of judgment only applies to eligible drug related offense(s).

Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act Program - Felony (PC §1210)

The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA) passed by voters in November, 2000, is also known as Prop 36. This is a different type of diversion program that is designed for nonviolent offenders who are charged with simple drug possession even if they have a prior offense. Prop 36 is an alternative treatment to jail and the increasing costs of incarceration with a strong and lengthy rehabilitation program including SLE (sober living environments), outpatient treatment, and drug education classes.

The SACPA program is implemented through a collaboration between the Superior Court, Monterey County Probation Department, Monterey County Behavioral Health services, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, California’s Parole and Community Services Division, treatment providers, and other community organizations.

In court, the eligible defendant pleads "guilty" or "no contest" to the underlying charge. The judge then places him/her on probation. A term of the probation is that the defendant successfully completes a drug rehabilitation program.

Defendants are supervised by a Probation Officer assigned to the unit. The officers ensure compliance with court orders by making referrals to treatment programs and conducting home visits, property searches, and random drug testing.

As participants progress through the phases of the program, they are held accountable to program requirements. If they are non compliant, they can receive sanctions ranging from writing an essay, community service, jail sanction, and program termination. Participants are also rewarded with incentives for positive behavior, such as phase advancements, decreased program requirements, drawings for movie tickets, and program graduation.

Upon successful completion of the drug treatment program, the conviction shall be set aside and the indictment, complaint or information is ordered dismissed; both the arrest and conviction shall be deemed never to have occurred. The defendant shall be released from all penalties resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted except for the following restrictions:
  1. Does not permit the person to own, possess, or have in his or her custody or control any firearm capable of being concealed upon the person or prevent his or her conviction under Penal Code Section 12021; and
  2. Does not relieve a defendant of the obligation to disclose the arrest and conviction in response to any direct question contained in any questionnaire or application for public office, for a position as a peace officer as defined in Penal Code Section 830, for licensure by any state or local agency, for contracting with the California State Lottery, or for purposes of serving on a jury.
A record pertaining to an arrest resulting in successful completion of drug treatment program shall not, without the defendant's consent, be used in any way that could result in the denial of any employment, benefit, license, or certificate.

If the defendant fails to complete the drug treatment program, or otherwise violates the terms of probation, the Judge can sentence him/her on the charge. Those penalties could include jail time or a California state prison sentence.

Drug Treatment Court (DTC) (Penal Code §1001.5)

The Drug Treatment Court (DTC) model includes a higher level of supervision, particularly by the Court and a standardized treatment program for the participants, including phases that each participant must pass through by meeting certain goals. There is also regular and frequent drug testing more so than the Deferred Entry of Judgment Drug Program or the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Program.

In order to participate in the Drug Treatment Court Program (DTC), defendants must have a history of or evidence of present drug abuse or addiction, their abuse or addiction is at least one motivating factor in the commission of their crime. The defendant has failed or not eligible for the Deferred Entry of Judgment Drug Program or the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Program (SACPA - Prop. 36 Drug Program).

Participants are convicted felons or misdemeanants. Majority of drug courts include initial intensive treatment services with ongoing monitoring and continuing care.

Eligible defendants enter a guilty plea, and make regularly scheduled court appearances before the Court. These status hearings are for the purpose of promoting the treatment and rehabilitation of the defendant. A probation officer also works very closely with the defendant by monitoring program compliance and provides progress reports to the Court.

Upon successful completion of a drug treatment court program, the arrest upon which the judgment was deferred shall be deemed to have never occurred. The defendant may indicate in response to any question concerning his or her prior criminal record that he or she was not arrested or granted deferred entry of judgment for the offense, except as specified in Penal Code section 1001 subdivision (b). A record pertaining to an arrest resulting in successful completion of a deferred entry of judgment program shall not, without the defendant's consent, be used in any way that could result in the denial of any employment, benefit, license, or certificate.

If a defendant does not or cannot comply with requirements of the treatment program plan and discontinue the use of drugs, participation in the program is terminated. The defendant is returned to custody and criminal proceedings are reinstated.



Mental Health Court - Creating New Choices (CNC) Program

The Creating New Choices Mental Health Programs are collaborative agreements between the Superior Court, Probation Department, Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Behavioral Health, District Attorney’s Office, and Public Defender’s Office, aimed at reducing the repetitive cycle of arrest and incarceration for defendants who have serious mental disorders.

The heart of CNC Program is the multi-disciplinary team consisting of a Forensic Supervisor, Psychiatric Social Workers, a Behavioral Health Aide, a Probation Officer and a Psychiatrist, all of whom work together in developing individualized comprehensive treatment plans, providing intensive mental health and dual-diagnosis treatment, 24/7 support services, probation supervision, housing and benefit assistance, transportation, vocational and educational services (such as cognitive skills training and anger/stress management training), medication management/compliance and connections to community resources.

Once a defendant is referred to the Creating New Choices (CNC) Mental Health Court Program, the Court will then refer the defendant to Behavioral Health for an assessment and placement in an inpatient or outpatient program. Review hearings are regularly scheduled before the Court. These review hearings are for the purpose of promoting the treatment of the defendant. Defendants may receive Certificates of Achievements once milestones are reached. If satisfactory progress is made no further review hearings are set and a court date may be set for successful completion and possible dismissal.



What is Probation?
Probation is a sentencing option for misdemeanor or felony offenses where the maximum penalty for the offense committed is not imposed by the Judge. When probation is granted, the defendant is allowed to remain a member of the community and serves only part of the sentence in jail, if any, with terms and conditions of probation imposed.

Defendants convicted of serious and violent offenses may not be eligible for probation.

Types of probation granted:
  • Formal Probation (Supervised Probation)
  • Conditional probation (Court Probation)
Formal Probation (or Supervised Probation) requires the defendant to meet with an assigned probation officer on a regular basis, usually once a month.

Conditional probation (or Court Probation) requires the defendant to complete certain terms of the sentence and obey all laws. Scheduled meetings with a probation officer are not necessary under conditional probation.

For all types of probation, a misdemeanor or felony sentence may include any or all of the following conditions:
  • Informal or Formal Probation;
  • County Jail time;
  • Pay appropriate Fines and Fees as required by statute;
  • Pay Victim Restitution;
  • Participating in counseling;
  • Drug testing;
  • Other terms and conditions appropriate to the offense committed.
Length of Probation

Generally, probation (formal and conditional) is granted from three to five years, but can vary depending on the charges and defendant’s circumstances.



How Is Probation Violated?
Probation can be violated in many ways. The most commons types of probation violations include:
  • Failure to Pay – When the defendant fails to pay required fines or restitution to the victim.
  • Failure to Comply – Conditions of a defendant’s probation may include to complete a court-ordered alcohol program, install an ignition interlock device or serve a county jail sentence. When the defendant fails to complete these required programs, a probation violation may occur.
  • Failure to Appear – Many probation requirements include a scheduled court appearance for a progress report. When the defendant fails to appear for the required court appearance, a probation violation may occur.
  • Failure to Report – Probation may require the defendant to report to a probation officer at scheduled times. Failure to appear when expected may result in a probation violation.
  • Possession of Illegal Substances – When the defendant possesses illegal weapons or drugs, a probation violation may occur.
  • Committing Crimes – Obeying all laws is mandatory during probation. When the defendant commits new crimes during the probationary period, a probation violation may occur.
  • Being Arrested – Regardless of whether criminal charges are present, when the defendant is arrested during the probationary period, a probation violation may occur.
  • Other Conditions – Any other terms and conditions imposed by the Judge at the time of sentencing and that the defendant has failed to comply with.
When Probation is Violated

The penalties for a probation violation depend on the severity of the violation. In some cases, a second chance may be given and the probation violation will not affect the original terms or conditions of the probation.

When a probation violation occurs and the Court is informed of the Violation of Probation, the Judge may issue a warrant for the defendant’s arrest. An arrest may follow shortly thereafter and/or the defendant may be ordered to court for a probation violation hearing. There are several factors that the judge and prosecutor use when considering a probation violation. Examples include:

  • The seriousness of the probation violation
  • The nature of the probation violation
  • The history of previous probation violations
  • New criminal activity surrounding the probation violation
  • Aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the probation violation
  • The probation officer and/or probation department’s view of the probation violation
  • The probation violation with respect to the probation term (whether it occurred at the beginning, middle, or end of the probationary term)
If a Warrant is Outstanding for a Violation of Probation

  • Conditional probation – You must contact the Clerk’s Office to Schedule an Appearance in Court.
  • Formal Probation – You must contact your probation officer or attorney.
Felony Case

If you were convicted of a felony and placed on formal probation, you must contact your Probation Officer for filing a request for modification of sentence.
  • Formal Probation (Supervised Probation) requires the defendant to meet with an assigned probation officer on a regular basis to ensure defendant complete and comply with specific terms and conditions of the sentence and obey all laws.
Misdemeanor Case

  • Sentence (probation denied) requires the defendant to complete the sentencing terms imposed.
  • Conditional probation requires the defendant to complete and comply with specific terms and conditions of the sentence and obey all laws.
If you fail to comply with a court sentence or the terms and conditions of your probation, a warrant may issue for your arrest for failure to comply with your sentence terms. If you were placed on probation, your probation may be violated, this action is known as a Violation of Probation.



How to Request a Modification of Sentence/Probation

An Application for Modification of Sentence/Probation is a process for requesting the Court to modify the terms of a sentence or the terms and conditions of probation imposed at sentencing. This Application may be filed at any time after the original sentencing has occurred.
  1. Submit a completed Application for Modification of Sentence form with the Clerk’s Office.
  2. After review and acceptance by the Clerk, the request will be submitted to the Judge for his/her review.
  3. After review by the Judge, the Clerk will notify you of the Judge’s decision:
    • Request granted;
    • Request denied; or
    • You must appear in court to further explain to the Judge your request for the modification of sentence.


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