If or when arrested, everyone has the right to request to speak to a lawyer and obtain advice from a lawyer before answering any police questions. The following lists the different levels of criminal charges that may pertain to you and what to expect after you have been arrested.
If Charged with a Felony
A felony is one of the highest classes of offense. It is defined in the California Penal Code as "any crime that is punishable by death, by imprisonment in the state prison, or by imprisonment in a county jail." The very first court appearance is called the arraignment and that is where the court advises you of your charge(s) and appoints a public defender, if you can't afford a private attorney.
If Charged with a Misdemeanor
A misdemeanor is a criminal charge that is less serious than a felony and can carry a maximum sentence of 365 days in a county jail and/or a substantial monetary fine. The very first court appearance is called the arraignment and that is where the court advises you of your charge(s) and appoints a public defender if you can't afford a private attorney.
Juvenile Specific Information
A juvenile refers to anyone under the age of 18. If a juvenile has been arrested, charges could be handled informally or in a juvenile court with the possibility of being detained in juvenile hall or by his/her parent(s)/guardian(s). The police department may have the juvenile, and his/her parent(s), sign a contract where the juvenile promises to do community service or another form of time in exchange for not filing charges.
The police may decide to refer the case to the juvenile probation department. If they do so, the juvenile and his/her parent(s) meet with a probation officer who can handle the case either informally or refer the case to the district attorney's office for the filing of a petition. The petition lists the charges and is called a complaint in adult court. The police can also take a juvenile to juvenile hall. If the juvenile is kept in custody, the district attorney's office has 48 hours to file a petition. If the juvenile is not detained, the charges can be filed at a later date and the juvenile is notified by mail.