(805) 664-1222
Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Lawyer

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions I get asked by clients. Since your circumstances may be different, it’s always a good idea to reach out and contact our office.

Do you offer Payment Plans?

Yes. All fee agreements are negotiated on an individual level with each client. Depending on the the client’s financial situation and case, both the fee and the payment structure are flexible.

Will I have to go to trial?

No. Most cases settle prior to trial, because trial is, in a sense, a nuclear option. However, in order to get the best resolution for your case, you need to prepare your case as though you will be going to trial, and you need to have an attorney who knows how to win cases in front of a jury. Martial arts experts practice for thousands of hours in the gym with the hope of never having to use their skills in a real fight. By their reputation alone, they can back an opponent down without ever throwing a punch. Trial works the same way. If you want to get the best deal before trial, you need your opponent (the prosecutor) to understand that if the case goes to trial, they can lose and get nothing. Many defense attorneys rarely or never go to trial. And while each of them may have a competent strategy for getting good settlements for their clients, there is no substitute for an attorney that goes to trial regularly and has experience winning tough cases in front of a juries.

Can you appear at a court date on my behalf?

Yes, for misdemeanors. When you hire an attorney, one of the major benefits is their ability to make appearances on your behalf so you don’t have to travel, miss work, or miss school. I will happily appear on your behalf to engage in the sort of negotiations that do not necessarily require personal presence, and I will report back any new developments on your case. Depending on the stage of the case, I may ask you to have a phone handy in case some issue comes up that I need to discuss with you before proceeding. Conversely, felony cases require the defendant’s personal presence and an attorney may not appear on behalf of their client except in rare circumstances.

Can you appear on my behalf at trial?

Yes, but it’s a bad idea. Although an attorney may appear on behalf of a client at their misdemeanor trial, this is usually a bad strategy for a few reasons. If jury members are being forced to take time away from their lives to attend a trial, they usually will not appreciate a defendant not showing up. Even if there are legitimate hardships preventing a defendant from attending their trial, to the jury It implies a lack of interest from the defendant, and jurors may think, “if the defendant doesn’t even care about their own case, why should I?” Although cases are supposed to be decided on the facts and the law, you don’t want a jury to resent you for some irrelevant reason that biases them against your case. In addition, I am constantly discussing the facts of the case with my clients during trial. No matter how much an attorney prepares, new things will always pop up, and often the client is in the best position to help the attorney understand some detail about the incident, so the attorney can respond in real time. Finally, although a defendant cannot be compelled to testify in their own case, there are many times when it is the smart thing to do, because only they are in a position to tell their side of the story. Even if you don’t testify, you still want the jury to see you as a real person in front of them, not some name on a jury verdict. In rare circumstances it might make sense or be understandable why a defendant would not want to attend their own trial, but the general rule that applies in the vast majority of circumstances is that personal attendance is necessary.

What penalties am I facing for …?

The law defines certain maximum penalties depending on the class of offense, aggravating factors, and whether the person has prior convictions. However, just because there is a potential maximum penalty, that doesn’t mean that the maximum is likely or even realistically possible. For misdemeanors that aren’t sex offenses, DUIs, and domestic offenses, most maximum penalties will either be one year in jail, six months in jail, ninety days in jail, or a fine. (Read more in the practice areas section about the potential penalties for a specific offense.)  However, unless you have an extensive criminal record or there are other considerable aggravating circumstances, the most likely penalty for a conviction will be an unsupervised probation, typically for one, two, or three years, with appropriate terms and fines. If you are ordered to serve jail time on a misdemeanor, you get two credits for every one day served, and you can arrange to serve your sentence by doing “work release” where you do work for the Sheriff in the morning and you leave to go home at the end of the day. If your jail sentence is over sixty days but under 365 days, you are frequently eligible, depending on the offense, to serve your sentence by doing home electronic monitoring. Felonies are sentenced differently than misdemeanors, and the rules are too complicated to include in a simple answer. For low-level felonies, a typical sentence for someone who has a minimal criminal record with no other major aggravating circumstances is a local jail sentence and a supervised felony probation for a minimum of three years. For more serious felonies, the penalty can include state prison time.

Can you reduce the penalties?

Certain penalties are required by law depending on the offense. If a penalty is not required by law, there is always an opportunity to negotiate around it. Even if you plan to plead guilty, a good defense lawyer will present your side of the story in a way that garners empathy from the DA and the judge, and minimizes the potential penalty. This means showing mitigating facts relevant to the incident itself, and demonstrating the good character of the client. All of these factors can help.

Will a conviction stay on my record?

Pursuant to California Penal Code 1203.4, Convictions for misdemeanors, infractions, and even some felonies can be expunged after probation is terminated successfully and fines are paid. Society has an interest in not saddling people with criminal records that negatively affect their employment prospects after they have paid their debt to society, so courts are happy to grant expungement requests for deserving persons. Although expungements do not perfectly wipe clean all record the case, once your case is expunged, it becomes illegal for a potential employer to discriminate against you based on the conviction.

Can you get my case dismissed?

Getting a case dismissed is always the best option for any client. Depending on the facts of your case, dismissal may be a realistic possibility. In my experience as a defense attorney, I have handled hundreds of cases that were dismissed without any guilty plea from my client. Sometimes I achieve this by working with an alleged victim to sign a “civil compromise”. Sometimes I achieve dismissals by pushing cases to trial. And sometimes I achieve dismissals by getting evidence thrown out. For most low level cases, my first objective is to see if there is a way to get the case dismissed without going to trial. It’s not always possible, but if it is, I will do my best to find out how.

Why should I hire a private attorney instead of a public defender?

As the son of two career public defenders and a public defender myself for over eight years, I have great respect for the competency and mission of public defenders everywhere. In most jurisdictions, the public defender’s office is the largest criminal defense firm that does the most litigation and trial work as an office, and they set the tone for how cases are resolved and what cases are worth. It’s important to note that in order to get a public defender, you need to submit financial info demonstrating a lack of ability to pay a private attorney. People who are able to afford private attorneys should hire private attorneys, and should not overburden an office that already has large caseloads and is intended to represent the indigent. Accordingly, the rest of this answer applies to individuals who qualify for a public defender, but might be able to get some money together in order to hire a private attorney. When you apply for the public defender, you are appointed an attorney. While it is true that public defenders are some of the best criminal defense attorneys there are, you don’t get to pick your attorney, and not every public defender is equally motivated and competent, and some have very large caseloads. While many public defenders office have rigorous hiring standards and train their deputies to handle tough cases, newer attorneys are often put into a misdemeanor assignment. If you pick up a alcohol-drug combo DUI, for instance, you are often assigned a newer attorney that may be excellent and capable, but may also simply lack significant experience trying cases like yours, and may not have read the studies that the DA intends to introduce at trial When you hire a private attorney, you get to interview them first and only hire them once you feel it’s a good fit. If you don’t like the work your attorney has done, you can fire them and go find a new one. Applying for representation by a public defender may be the best and  most cost effective choice for some people in some cases, and if your case is the kind of case that is pretty straightforward and requires minimal work, I will be honest if you if I think hiring an attorney is a waste of money.

Why should I hire a former public defender to handle my case?

Being a public defender is the most immersive and intensive way to gain a large amount of experience handling a wide variety of criminal cases and clients in a short amount of time. As a public defender, I was assigned to handle misdemeanor cases, felony cases, preliminary hearings, and arraignments. I learned the value of a case at every stage of the process. I filed hundreds of motions, oversaw hundreds of dismissals and pleas, and conducted dozens of trials. I represented clients with mental health issues, financial problems, and addiction struggles, and I developed an ability to empathize with my clients and learn how to advocate their point of view respectfully and effectively. I am a defense attorney because I believe in the fight. I have seen firsthand how people can be railroaded and abused by the criminal justice system when they don’t have an attorney who has the desire or passion to fight. I have seen how clients can be let down by attorneys who only go to work for the paycheck. While I have a respectful relationship with all DAs and judges and I understand the value in being amicable, I also know that in the courtroom my one and only obligation is to my client. When I take on a case, I commit myself to my client and the cause of all persons struggling against the power of the state.

I have a conviction from years ago. Can you have it removed?

Yes. I do expungements. Typically this involves getting some information from you in order to make the petition more likely to succeed. I can appear on your behalf on any expungement matter and get you a copy of the judge’s order granting expungement.

I’m from out of state. Can you appear in court on my behalf?

If the case is a misdemeanor or does not require personal appearance, yes. I am happy to appear for my clients on their misdemeanor matters. As mentioned in the answer to #4, if the case goes to trial, you will almost certainly want to be present. In some misdemeanor cases, the judge may require your presence at plea or sentencing, but in most cases, I can even appear for you to hand in your plea and accept your sentence.