Arriving at the Courthouse
You should plan to arrive early for 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
Upon arrival, check the calendar for your name on the central calendar board located behind security screening to determine in which courtroom you will be appearing. If you do not find your name on the calendar, check in with the Clerk's Office for further instructions.
If you have an attorney, your attorney may confer with you before your court hearing. This is an opportunity for you to ask your attorney any last minute questions.
Before Entering the Courtroom
The bailiff will announce when the courtroom is open for the court session and provide you with instructions.
Entering the Courtroom
Upon arriving in the courtroom, the bailiff will enforce the following rules:
- Cellular telephones must be turned off while in the courtroom;
- Food and beverages are not allowed in the courtroom;
- Hats and sunglasses must not be worn and chewing gum is not allowed; and
- You must maintain a professional demeanor and refrain from disrupting the proceedings.
When Your Case Is Called:
- When your name is called, promptly stand up and walk forward as directed by the bailiff, and be sure to keep your hands outside of your pockets.
- 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.
All defendants in criminal hearings are constitutionally entitled to legal representation. Many defendants retain the services of a private attorney and pay the attorney directly. For defendants who cannot afford a private attorney, 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. Information on low-cost or no-cost attorney options to qualifying individuals will be provided to you on the day of your court appearance.
At a misdemeanor arraignment, the defendant enters a plea to the charge of 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 determine if the defendant qualifies.
- 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 does qualify, the judge will appoint the Public Defender and the case will be continued 2 – 3 weeks for a 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 witnesses and presents other evidence to prove the crime, and the defense attorney may question those witnesses and also present witnesses and other evidence to support a defense. Both the defendant and the prosecutor 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, referred to as a "Court Trial." In a jury trial, the jury is the "trier of fact"; in a court trial, the judge is the "trier of fact." After the evidence is presented, the "trier of fact" will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant is found not guilty, the case ends. If the defendant is found guilty, a sentencing date will be set.
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 and may consider alternatives, such as fines, 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.
At a felony arraignment, the defendant enters a plea to the charge of either 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.
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 what is required at a trial, the prosecutor generally does not call all potential witnesses to testify at the "prelim;" generally, the victim, eye witnesses and the investigating officers on the case may testify.The defendant's attorney can cross examine the witnesses, call witnesses and present evidence. If probable cause is established, the defendant is "bound over" or "held to answer" for trial. If the Judge decides that there is no 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.
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).
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 necessary witnesses. 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.
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 Cases
Domestic Violence was cases require specialization and efficiency in order to handle 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:
- Living together
- Relative by marriage
- Children in common
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 if the charge is a 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Submit a completed Application for Modification of Sentence form with the Clerk's Office.
- After review and acceptance by the Clerk, the request will be submitted to the Judge for his/her review.
- 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.