Frequently Asked Questions
- Can I afford to hire an attorney?
- Should I just go with the Public Defender?
- I have not been arrested yet but I am suspected of committing a crime. What could an attorney do to help me?
- Should I post bail if I was arrested?
- What is the distinction between a felony and a misdemeanor?
- Is it required that I appear in court?
- What is going to happen the first time I appear in court?
- What can I do to help my case?
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Staycie R. Sena charges reasonable rates for top-notch aggressive and experienced representation. She also arranges payment plans and all major credit cards are accepted.
Only the most indigent defendants are appointed public defenders. The Orange County Public Defender’s Office has limited resources and it usually only represents clients who are unemployed, on public assistance, or homeless. In order to qualify for a public defender, the court must determine that you are not able to afford an attorney on your own. You will have to submit a financial declaration to determine if you are eligible for a public defender. If you are applying for a public defender in Orange County, you have to complete a financial declaration and must sign it under penalty of perjury.
If you are arrested or suspected of committing a crime, before you do anything else, you should talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney. It is invaluable for your case if you have a criminal defense attorney at the beginning stages so they can inform you of your rights and options. Additionally, if you have an attorney at the beginning, you are less likely to make harmful statements to the police. Ask any experienced criminal defense attorney and they will tell you that most of the mistakes in a case occur at the beginning stages of the case. The most common mistake made is when defendants try to explain what happened to police officers, security guards, employers or others. If you retain an attorney at the beginning stages of your case, they could also arrange your surrender to law enforcement officials so that you will not be arrested while you are at work, in public, or in front of your friends or family members.
If you or a family member is arrested, do NOT post bail before consulting with an attorney. You should call Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Staycie R. Sena because she could try to get you released on your own recognizance so that bail is not needed. Conversely, Ms. Sena could refer you to a bail bondsman that will charge an 8% fee instead of the standard 10% fee.
Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are punishable by up to a year in jail time. Generally, misdemeanors are not as serious as felonies but certain misdemeanors are called “wobblers,” which have the potential to be increased to felony charges at the DA’s discretion. The most common misdemeanors include: domestic violence, DUI/DWI, petty theft, public intoxication, simple assault (without the use of a weapon), and vandalism.
Felonies are more serious criminal offenses that are punishable by more than one year in prison. Felonies are usually crimes that society deems serious like homicide, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, grand theft, drug crimes, kidnapping, and most sex crimes like rape and molestation. If you are charged with a felony offense, you are required to appear in court at ALL of your assigned court dates with your attorney present.
If you are charged with a felony offense, you are required to appear in court at ALL of your assigned court dates with your attorney present. If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense, your attorney can appear on your behalf in most cases. You should discuss this with Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Staycie R. Sena before your criminal arraignment.
The first part of a criminal proceeding is called the “arraignment.” This is the first court date in a criminal case and the following occur at an arraignment: the court advises you of your constitutional rights, you will be informed of the specific criminal charges that were filed against you, you have your first opportunity to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest), and the court will set your bail. In practice, Ms. Sena would tell the court that you have retained an attorney and are being represented in the case. Usually, her clients will enter a “not guilty” plea to the criminal charges and she will request a copy of the police report. She will also determine bail or discuss the possibility of you being released on your own recognizance (O.R.). At the arraignment, another court date is set a few weeks later to further negotiate the case with the DA, prepare the case for trial, and to start to show the evidence. All court dates scheduled after the arraignment are called “pre trials” until a preliminary hearing is scheduled (for felony cases) or trial date is set.
If your attorney thinks it is helpful to mitigate your case, she might ask you to attend “self-help” meetings like AA, NA, or Anger Management classes. If you are asked to attend “self-help” classes or meetings, you must keep a detailed attendance records. Please print the Self-Help Meeting Attendance Log (PDF) and ask a member or leader to verify your attendant at every meeting or class that you attend.