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  1. #1
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    Apr 2011
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    Default What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    My question involves traffic court in the State of: California.

    First...
    In December of 2009, I was pulled over by the LAPD for talking on my cell phone while driving. This was in a rental car and this was shortly after I moved to California (I was still using a valid Colorado driver's license). The officer asked me if I was aware of the law, I politely said "no, I'm very new to town." He issued me a ticket.

    In the next week or so, I also "earned" a few parking tickets (welcome to Southern California!).

    The rental car agency took care of those parking tickets and simply charged the credit card I had on file.

    Here's where I really started to screw up.

    I mistakenly assumed my cell phone traffic ticket was also taken care of -- I failed to properly distinguish between my parking tickets and my traffic ticket -- and I moved on with my life.

    Fast-forward to October-ish 2010...

    I was trying to do something on the DMV's website and it came to my attention that there was a hold on my license for failure to appear in court to contest the traffic ticket that I had failed to pay because I had completely forgotten about it.

    I looked into paying it with a collections agency, but the $25 ticket had skyrocketed to ~$800 after all the fees.

    So I went the Superior Court house, filled out some paperwork and got an "abstract." I'm really not sure what that was, but it gave me a court date and removed the hold on my license.

    And now we're at the present...

    My "arraignment" date is this Monday, April, 4th.

    I logged into the LASC website to get all the information I could about my impending court appearance, but I was saddened by the lack of information.

    Case status reads "court."
    New appearance date reads: "04/04/2011 in 064."

    But it doesn't even give me a time of day. Of course, I spent the entire afternoon making phone calls but managing to get through to a helpful LIVE INDIVIDUAL in the LASC system seems like an impossible task. I was bounced back and forth between unhelpful pre-recorded messages, but I couldn't get any information relevant to my situation.

    So now it's the close of business Friday afternoon and I'm expected to see a judge at some point on Monday.

    So these are my questions:

    1) (and foremost.) How do I find out what time I have court on Monday before, well, Monday?

    I've heard stories that it can take hours just to get in the courthouse so I'm worried about just showing up at 9am and hoping for the best (because not getting in to see the judge would result in a second FTA which seems to be the worst case scenario.)

    So do I show up at the court house at 7am and just plan to be there all day long?

    If there was someone to talk to on a Saturday to get more info... or if there was some online registry that could help me out, that would be great.

    I realize you guys are probably not intimately familiar with the LASC system, but any insight here would save me a lot of worry this weekend.

    2) (this one is probably more up your alley) Once I get in front of the judge, what's my best plan of attack? I really just want to get the penalties/late fees reduced (or dropped) if possible. Should I just explain my situation in the same manner I explained it here and assume full responsibility for my mistake? What should I plead? etc.

    Obviously a dismissal would be awesome, but I'm not really concerned with the cost of the original fine or the driving record implications so much as I'm concerned with the ~$800 in penalties they are expecting.

    Thanks in advance for any help or advice given.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    Quote Quoting mmmsivart
    View Post
    1) (and foremost.) How do I find out what time I have court on Monday before, well, Monday?
    At this point, you can't.
    I've heard stories that it can take hours just to get in the courthouse so I'm worried about just showing up at 9am and hoping for the best (because not getting in to see the judge would result in a second FTA which seems to be the worst case scenario.)
    If you showed up at 9, you'd already be late.
    So do I show up at the court house at 7am and just plan to be there all day long?
    If I were you, I'd show up at 6:30
    If there was someone to talk to on a Saturday to get more info... or if there was some online registry that could help me out, that would be great.
    We're closed on Saturdays. We have families too and we like to enjoy them on the weekends like other folk. In fact, we've never been opened on Saturday.
    I realize you guys are probably not intimately familiar with the LASC system, but any insight here would save me a lot of worry this weekend.
    I happen to be so intimately familiar with the LASC system AND this particular courthouse, that I can tell you about every secret entrance and exit and when not to buy the coffee

    2) (this one is probably more up your alley) Once I get in front of the judge, what's my best plan of attack? I really just want to get the penalties/late fees reduced (or dropped) if possible. Should I just explain my situation in the same manner I explained it here and assume full responsibility for my mistake? What should I plead? etc.
    There is no plan of attack. You'll be in a courtroom with 90 other cases on calendar and probably 60 other people. You'll stand before the judge, plead guilty, not guilty or no contest and receive the applicable fine. There won't be 20 minutes for you to give some long drawn out story about why you broke whatever law you broke, you either did it or you didn't. You either want to go to trial or you don't - and only you can decide that. If you plead not guilty, be prepared to post the bail in court that day.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2011
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    Los Angeles, CA
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    Thank you, CourtClerk, for your help. I've sent you a private message but I wanted to thank you publicly as well.

    Something I forgot to include in the original message is a screen-cap of the information available online regarding my citation. I'll include that now in case anyone else has any further thoughts/suggestions:


  4. #4
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    I have asked in many a thread for people NOT to send me messages via private message unless I ask you to, so please post your questions in the forum. 64 does arraignments in both the morning and afternoon, so there's no way to tell online when you're supposed to be there.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    Sorry, CourtClerk.

    These were my follow-up questions.

    1) If I plead guilty, can I expect the judge to order me to pay (a) the original fine for the infraction (~$25-40), (b) that fine plus the collection service fees (~$825), (c) even more than that due to added-in court costs, or (d) an entirely different and perhaps arbitrary amount depending on a ton of factors including perhaps the way I present myself or His Honor's mood.
    2) Seeing as how you are intimately familiar with the Metropolitan Courthouse, is there any specific advice you would care to give me? (e.g. use the South entrance, don't make eye-contact with the Judge)?

    And another question I didn't think to ask:

    What else should I bring with me other than my original citation, my driver's licenses (current CA one, and the CO one I had at the time), my wallet, and perhaps a book to pass the time?

    Quote Quoting CourtClerk
    View Post
    64 does arraignments in both the morning and afternoon, so there's no way to tell online when you're supposed to be there.
    Is that to say all offenders are slotted into two groups, "morning" and "afternoon"? Or are you saying each person has a particular and more specific window of time in which they are supposed to appear, and it could be from anywhere between 9 and 5? Let's say I am scheduled for around 9am, and I get there as you suggest around 6:30. How long can I reasonably expect to stay there? The entire day? A half day? Less?

    Again, thank you so much for your help.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    Quote Quoting mmmsivart
    View Post
    1) If I plead guilty, can I expect the judge to order me to pay (a) the original fine for the infraction (~$25-40), (b) that fine plus the collection service fees (~$825), (c) even more than that due to added-in court costs, or (d) an entirely different and perhaps arbitrary amount depending on a ton of factors including perhaps the way I present myself or His Honor's mood.
    The only time that I've ever seen all the extra added fees and assessments completely dismissed is if there is a legally justifiable reason for your failure to appear. You don't have one (death, hospitalization, deployment). Sometimes people get lucky, but I wouldn't expect to pay $25 anymore. You, at best need to pay the correction fee and the fine for the FTA (which is a couple of hundred bucks all by itself). Fines are statutory, His Honor's mood rarely has anything to do with fine amounts.
    2) Seeing as how you are intimately familiar with the Metropolitan Courthouse, is there any specific advice you would care to give me? (e.g. use the South entrance, don't make eye-contact with the Judge)?
    Both entrances are h*ll, which is why I recommend getting there as early as possible. IF you happen to not be on calendar until 1:30, then proceed to the baliff, let them know that you are on calendar for the afternoon, but you weren't sure and if it's not too big of an imposition, can you PLEASE appear this morning (be kind and respectful, don't act like it's your right to be there NOW). Most times, they'll accommodate you. I have always told my child to ALWAYS look someone in the eyes when you're speaking to them. It's a sign of respect. I won't converse with him if I'm having a conversation with him and he's not looking at me in the face, unless he's busy doing something else. When I speak to my judge, even in a casual fashion, I give him the respect of looking at him in the eyes. I suggest that you follow that advice through life, not just in a courthouse. It's also nice if you're not full of excuses (they've heard them all). Be brief, you won't be able to argue the merits of the ticket. He'll ask you questions, answer them DIRECTLY, not with a story. If he cuts you off because you're taking too long to answer, you'll never get another opportunity to answer that question.
    And another question I didn't think to ask:

    What else should I bring with me other than my original citation, my driver's licenses (current CA one, and the CO one I had at the time), my wallet, and perhaps a book to pass the time?
    Sweetie, you shouldn't be in possession of 2 driver licenses... that's another ticket. LOL
    You are to surrender your CO license at the time you received a CA license, but yes, bring a book, your valid CA license, a charged cell phone and a snack. No eating in the courtroom, but there will be lots of lines you'll have to maneuver through.
    Is that to say all offenders are slotted into two groups, "morning" and "afternoon"? Or are you saying each person has a particular and more specific window of time in which they are supposed to appear, and it could be from anywhere between 9 and 5?
    Think of it as a doctor's appointment, except for you have an appointment with 100 other people. 100 of you are scheduled to be there at 8:30, 100 of you are scheduled to be there at 1:30. The 8:30 session goes until lunch time, 1:30 goes until they're done *by 4; 4:30*
    Let's say I am scheduled for around 9am, and I get there as you suggest around 6:30. How long can I reasonably expect to stay there? The entire day? A half day? Less?
    They don't recall from a previous session. They work until they're done. Once they start, the process goes rather quickly for what's involved, but bank on half a day.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    Quote Quoting CourtClerk
    View Post
    The only time that I've ever seen all the extra added fees and assessments completely dismissed is if there is a legally justifiable reason for your failure to appear. You don't have one (death, hospitalization, deployment). Sometimes people get lucky, but I wouldn't expect to pay $25 anymore. You, at best need to pay the correction fee and the fine for the FTA (which is a couple of hundred bucks all by itself). Fines are statutory, His Honor's mood rarely has anything to do with fine amounts.

    Both entrances are h*ll, which is why I recommend getting there as early as possible. IF you happen to not be on calendar until 1:30, then proceed to the baliff, let them know that you are on calendar for the afternoon, but you weren't sure and if it's not too big of an imposition, can you PLEASE appear this morning (be kind and respectful, don't act like it's your right to be there NOW). Most times, they'll accommodate you. I have always told my child to ALWAYS look someone in the eyes when you're speaking to them. It's a sign of respect. I won't converse with him if I'm having a conversation with him and he's not looking at me in the face, unless he's busy doing something else. When I speak to my judge, even in a casual fashion, I give him the respect of looking at him in the eyes. I suggest that you follow that advice through life, not just in a courthouse. It's also nice if you're not full of excuses (they've heard them all). Be brief, you won't be able to argue the merits of the ticket. He'll ask you questions, answer them DIRECTLY, not with a story. If he cuts you off because you're taking too long to answer, you'll never get another opportunity to answer that question.
    And another question I didn't think to ask:


    Sweetie, you shouldn't be in possession of 2 driver licenses... that's another ticket. LOL
    You are to surrender your CO license at the time you received a CA license, but yes, bring a book, your valid CA license, a charged cell phone and a snack. No eating in the courtroom, but there will be lots of lines you'll have to maneuver through.

    Think of it as a doctor's appointment, except for you have an appointment with 100 other people. 100 of you are scheduled to be there at 8:30, 100 of you are scheduled to be there at 1:30. The 8:30 session goes until lunch time, 1:30 goes until they're done *by 4; 4:30*

    They don't recall from a previous session. They work until they're done. Once they start, the process goes rather quickly for what's involved, but bank on half a day.

    I have nothing to add here - but I've gotta say, CC's responses are among the most helpful posts I've ever seen here.

    Thank you - I learned stuff here, too!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    Well, thank you my friend...

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    Quote Quoting CourtClerk
    View Post
    Sweetie, you shouldn't be in possession of 2 driver licenses... that's another ticket. LOL
    I honestly did not know that.

    Thanks, though, for all the information. I'll try not to screw it up!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: What Should You Do at an Arraignment

    See below...
    12511. No person shall have in his or her possession or otherwise
    under his or her control more than one driver's license.

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