Steps in a Criminal Case

  • Crime Committed
  • Crime Reported
  • Police Investigate

Investigation may include interviewing victim, witnesses, and suspects; collecting physical evidence; visiting, viewing, photographing, and measuring crime scene; identifying suspects through line-ups, etc.

  • Police May Make an Arrest/May Request a Warrant

When a crime is committed in a police officer's presence, or an officer has probable cause to believe that certain misdemeanors or felony was committed that he/she did not see happen, an officer may arrest a suspect on the spot without an arrest warrant. The officer will later submit a charging/warrant request to the District Attorney's Office, suggesting potential charges to be authorized.

  • The District Attorney’s Office Reviews the Case

This is generally the first time that a prosecutor is involved in a case. At this stage, the prosecutor determines whether a person should be charged with a crime and, if so, what the crime should be. The prosecutor thoroughly reviews all reports and records concerning the case, including witness statements. The prosecutor also reviews the suspect's prior criminal or traffic record. The criminal case is either charged or declined. Occasionally, the reviewing prosecutor sends the case back to the police to conduct additional investigation.

  • Criminal Charges Are Issued or Declined

The prosecutor may file a charge if he reasonably believes that there is probable cause that the suspect committed the offense, and he/she reasonably believes the charge can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial with the information known at that time. If a case is charged, the prosecutor issues a criminal complaint charging the suspect with committing a felony, misdemeanor, or both.

  • Suspect Arrested (if not already in custody), a Warrant is Issued or Suspect is Sent a Notice to Appear in Court

The delay between the crime date and the defendant's arrest on an authorized charge can take any length of time (e.g., if the defendant's whereabouts are unknown, or if he/she has left California).

  • Arraignment

This is the first court appearance for any misdemeanor or felony. Once arrested and charged with a felony, the suspect appears in court for arraignment. At arraignment, the defendant is told what crime he or she is charged with, and is advised of their constitutional rights to a jury or court trial, appointed attorney, presumption of innocence, etc. The charging document is called a complaint. The conditions and amount of bail are determined. In some cases, generally based on the nature of the charge, the judge imposes conditions on bail, such as "no contact" with the victim. Bail is set in almost every case, but it is up to the defendant's own resources to post the bail money, which allows them to be released. All further pre-trial procedures are determined by whether the defendant is charged with a felony or misdemeanor:

  • Misdemeanor

At a misdemeanor arraignment, the defendant will be given a chance to enter a plea to the charge of either guilty, not guilty, or stand mute (i.e., remain silent, which is treated by the court as if the defendant pled not guilty). If he or she pleads guilty or no contest, the judge may sentence them on the spot, or may reschedule the case for a sentencing date. This gives the probation department time to prepare a pre-sentence report including background information about the defendant and the crime, make a sentencing recommendation, etc. If the defendant stands mute or pleads not guilty, the case will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference.

  • Pretrial Proceedings

Many events can occur prior to trial. There are case discussions involving the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney. The focus is on possibly resolving the case short of trial. Depending on the nature of the case, there may be pre-trial hearings on Constitutional issues (confessions, searches, identification, etc.). The issues are presented to the Court through written "motions" (e.g., Motion to Suppress Evidence, etc.). The judge must determine whether evidence will be admitted or suppressed at the defendant's trial, whether there is some legal reason why the defendant should not be tried, or decide other ground rules for trial.

  • Felony

At a felony arraignment, the defendant enters a plea to the charge (guilty, not guilty, stand mute). He or she is advised of their right to a preliminary examination within 14 days of the arraignment. If the defendant requests a court-appointed attorney, the court will review that request at the time of the arraignment.

  • Preliminary Hearing

This is a contested hearing before a judge, sometimes called a "probable cause hearing." The prosecutor presents witnesses to convince the judge 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 at a trial, the prosecutor generally does not call all potential witnesses to testify at the "prelim"; generally, the victim and some eye witnesses plus some of the police witnesses may testify. The defendant has an attorney, can cross examine the witnesses, and can present their own evidence (including witnesses). If probable cause is established, the defendant is "bound over" for trial. If the judge decides that there is not probable cause that the defendant committed the crime, the charge can be dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor for trial in court. A defendant can decide not to have a preliminary examination.

  • Arraignment

After the case is "bound over" for a felony trial, the defendant is again arraigned (given formal notice of the charges against him or her). The charging document is called the Information. He or she is again advised of his or her constitutional rights, and enters a plea to the charge (guilty, not guilty, stand mute).

  • Pretrial Proceedings

As with misdemeanors, the judge is called upon to resolve various pre-trial 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 an adversary 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 to prove the crime. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence or to present any evidence, but may challenge the accuracy of the prosecutor's evidence. 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; this is called 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 judge or a jury will determine whether the evidence proved that the defendant committed the crime.

  • Pre-Sentence Investigation and Report

The probation department prepares a report for the judge summarizing the crime, and the defendant's personal and criminal background. Generally, the victim is contacted for a recommendation of sentence. The probation officer concludes the report with a recommended sentence.

  • Sentencing

Sentencing in California varies with the crime and can be the most confusing part of the criminal process. Most often, sentences are at the judge's discretion. At the time of sentencing, the judge will consider the information in the pre-sentence report before determining the sentence. The parties may correct factual errors in the pre-sentence report and offer additional evidence relevant to the judge's sentencing decision. The judge will consult the "sentencing guidelines" in the California Rules of Court (established as a reference for framing an appropriate sentence throughout the state, considering factors of the crime, and the defendant's criminal background) to determine the minimum jail/prison sentence. The judge may consider different alternatives, such as a fine, probation, community service, a sentence to jail or prison, or a combination. The judge must also order the defendant to make restitution to any victims who have suffered financial harm. 


California Victim Compensation Program (English & Spanish)

Under California law (Government Code Sections 13959-13969.3), qualifying victims of crime may receive financial assistance for losses resulting from a crime when they cannot be reimbursed by other sources. The California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board administers California's Victim Compensation Program (Cal VCP).

Tehama County Victim-Witness Assistance Program staff can assist victims in filing Cal VCP claims and can also provide information about other methods of loss recovery.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible for compensation, a person must be a victim of a qualifying crime involving physical injury, threat of physical injury or death. For certain crimes, emotional injury alone is all that needs to be shown. Certain family members or other loved ones who suffer an economic loss resulting from an injury to, or death of, a victim of a crime may also be eligible for compensation.

The Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) can help victims and family members of victims for crimes such as:

  • Domestic violence
  • Child abuse
  • Elder Abuse
  • Assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Molestation
  • Homicide
  • Robbery
  • Drunk driving
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Human trafficking

In addition to being the victim of a qualifying violent crime, applicants must meet other criteria, including:

  • Generally, they must report the crime to the police, sheriff, child protective services, or some other law enforcement agency.
  • In most cases, they must apply to CalVCP within three years of the time the crime happened. If applying after three years, they can inform CalVCP in writing why the application is late, and an extension of the time limit may be granted for certain reasons. In most cases, if the victim was under 18 when the crime happened, they have until the victim's 21st birthday to apply. If the specified crime involves sex with a minor, claims may be filed any time prior to the victim’s 28th birthday.
    An application for compensation can be filed within three years of the date of the crime, three years after the victim's 18th birthday, or three years of the time the victim knew or could have discovered that an injury or death had been sustained as a direct result of crime, whichever is later.
  • Applicants/victims must cooperate with law enforcement during the investigation and prosecution of the crime. Also, a victim cannot have participated in or been involved in committing the crime.
  • Applicants/victims must cooperate with CalVCP by providing the information needed to review the application.

Child Witnesses to Violent Crime

Minors who suffer emotional injuries from witnessing a violent crime may be eligible for up to $5,000 in mental health counseling through CalVCP. A law that went into effect in 2009 allows the minor witness to be eligible for assistance even if he or she is unrelated to the crime victim. To qualify, the minor witness must have been in close proximity to the crime.

The following losses may be covered by the Program:

  • Medical/Dental treatment   
  • Mental Health Counseling   
  • Lost income, if the victim is disabled because of the crime
  • Loss of support, for dependents when a victim is killed or disabled because of a crime
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Job Retraining
  • Home or vehicle modifications if the victim is disabled because of the crime
  • Home security, if the crime happened in someone's home
  • Emergency relocation
  • Crime scene cleanup, when a homicide happens in someone's home
  • Medically necessary equipment, including wheelchairs, eyeglasses, and hearing aids


The following expenses cannot be paid by the Program:

  • Any expenses paid by your insurance or another source
  • Lost, damaged or stolen property   
  • Pain and suffering  
  • Any expense not related to the crime 

CalVCP can only reimburse crime-related expenses that are not covered by other sources. There are limits on how much can be paid for each loss. The program cannot pay any expense for a person who is on felony probation, on parole, in jail or in prison (a person who is not a felon can be reimbursed for funeral and crime-scene cleanup expenses even though the victim was a felon).

Losses not covered by the program may be recoverable, either through court-ordered restitution as a part of a convicted perpetrator's criminal sentence or through the enforcement of a judgment obtained in a civil lawsuit against the alleged perpetrator.

For more information concerning the Victim Compensation Program, contact the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board at (800) 777-9229. Information is also available on the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board Web site.


Programa de Compensación para Víctimas de California

¿Qué es el Programa de Compensación para Víctimas?

El Programa de Compensación a Víctimas de California (CalVCP) puede ayudar a pagar las cuentas y los gastos que resultan de ciertos crímenes violentos. Víctimas de crimen que han sido herido o amenazado con lesión, pueden tener derecho a la ayuda del CalVCP.

¿Quién Puede Calificar para la Compensación para Víctimas?

El CalVCP puede ayudar a las víctimas de crimenes tales como

• Violencia doméstica

• Abuso de menores

• Asalto

• Abuso sexual

• Abuso de adultos mayores

• Homicidio

• Robo

• Conducir bajo la influcia  del alcohol

• Homicidio vehicular

• Crimen de odio

Los menores que sufren heridas emocionales a consecuencia de presenciar un crimen violento puede tener derecho a hasta $5,000 para tratamiento de la salud mental por el CalVCP. CalVCP le puede ayudar a víctimas de crimen que ocurren en California y también le puede ayudar a residentes de California si son víctimas en otros estados o fuera del país. Además, las personas que sufren una pérdida monetaria a causa de la muerte o herida de una víctima de crimen también pueden ser elegibles para la compensación.

Estas víctimas “indirectas” pueden incluir a:

• Esposo(a) o Compañero(a) doméstico(a)

• Hijo(a)

• Padre o madre

• Guardián legal

• Hermano(a)

• Abuelo(a)

• Nieto(a)


¿Qué Gastos Puede el CalVCP Ayudar a Pagar?


• El CalVCP puede ayudar a pagar los gastos relacionados a un crimen por ejemplo:

• Tratamiento médico y dental

• Tratamiento de la salud mental

• Pérdida de ingresos

• Gastos funerarios y entierros

• Pérdida de apoyo para dependientes cuando la víctima es asesinada o queda incapacitada por el crimen

• Cambios necesarios a su hogar o a su vehículo

• Seguridad para su hogar

• Mudanza

• Limpieza del lugar del crimen


¿Qué Gastos No Cubre el CalVCP?

 • Gastos que no son relacionados al crimen

• Gastos pagados por la compañía de seguros u otras fuentes

• Los gastos de propiedad perdida, robada o dañada

• Daños de dolor y sufrimiento

• Hay límites de cuánto se puede pagar por cada pérdida.

El programa no paga por ningún gasto de una persona que se encuentra en libertad bajo palabra de honor, en libertad

vigilada, en la carcel, o en prisión por una felonía.


Para más información, comuníquese con:


P.O. Box 3036

Sacramento, CA 95812-3036


correo electrónico: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Victims' Rights (English & Spanish)

Victim’s Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law

As a victim in a criminal case, you are entitled to the following rights under Article 1, §28(b) of the California Constitution.

In order to preserve and protect a victim’s rights to justice and due process, a victim shall be entitled to the following rights:

(1) To be treated with fairness and respect for his or her privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.

(2) To be reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of the defendant.

(3) To have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in fixing the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant.

(4) To prevent the disclosure of confidential information or records to the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, which could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family or which disclose confidential communications made in the course of medical or counseling treatment, or which are otherwise privileged or confidential by law.

(5) To refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview to which the victim consents.

(6) To reasonable notice of and to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding, the arrest of the defendant if known by the prosecutor, the charges filed, the determination whether to extradite the defendant, and, upon request, to be notified of and informed before any pretrial disposition of the case.

(7) To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.

(8) To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.

(9) To a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings.

(10) To provide information to a probation department official conducting a presentence investigation concerning the impact of the offense on the victim and the victim’s family and any sentencing recommendations before the sentencing of the defendant.

(11) To receive, upon request, the pre-sentence report when available to the defendant, except for those portions made confidential by law.

(12) To be informed, upon request, of the conviction, sentence, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the defendant, the scheduled release date of the defendant, and the release of or the escape by the defendant from custody.

(13) To restitution.

(14) To the prompt return of property when no longer needed as evidence.

(15) To be informed of all parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, to provide information to the parole authority to be considered before the parole of the offender, and to be notified, upon request, of the parole or other release of the offender.

(16) To have the safety of the victim, the victim’s family, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made.

(17) To be informed of the rights enumerated in paragraphs (1) through (16).

For purposes of this law, a "victim" is a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act. The term "victim" also includes the person’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, or guardian, and includes a lawful representative of a crime victim who is deceased, a minor, or physically or psychologically incapacitated. The term "victim" does not include a person in custody for an offense, the accused, or a person whom the court finds who would not act in the best interests of a minor victim.

Note: Please be advised that criminal cases may be resolved as early as the first court appearance.


For more information about Marsy’s Law, visit the Attorney General’s website at

Declaración de Derechos de las Víctimas Ley de Marsy

El artículo 1, sección 28(b) de la Constitución de California confiere ciertos derechos a las víctimas de delitos. Estos derechos incluyen los siguientes:

1. Equidad y respeto

A ser tratada con equidad y respeto por su privacidad y dignidad, y a estar libre de intimidación, acoso y maltrato durante todo el proceso penal o de justicia de menores.

2. Protección del acusado

A estar razonablemente protegida del acusado y de las personas que actúan en nombre del acusado.

3. Consideración de la seguridad de la víctima al fijar la fianza y condiciones de puesta en libertad

A que se considere la seguridad de la víctima y de la familia de la víctima al establecer el monto de la fianza y las condiciones de puesta en libertad del acusado.

4. Prevención de divulgación de información confidencial

A que se impida la divulgación de información o registros confidenciales al acusado, al abogado del acusado o a cualquier otra persona que actúe en nombre del acusado, que se pueda utilizar para ubicar o acosar a la víctima o a la familia de la víctima, o a que se revelen comunicaciones confidenciales realizadas en el curso de un tratamiento médico o de consejería, o que sean privilegiadas o confidenciales conforme a la ley.

5. Rehusarse a ser entrevistada por la defensa

A rehusarse a ser entrevistada, tener que declarar bajo juramento o someterse a un proceso de revelación solicitado por el acusado, el abogado del acusado o cualquier otra persona que actúe en nombre del acusado, y a establecer condiciones razonables para la realización de una entrevista consentida por la víctima.

6. Conferencia con la fiscalía y aviso de las disposiciones tomadas antes del juicio

A recibir un aviso razonable y consultas razonables por parte de la fiscalía, bajo pedido, con respecto al arresto del acusado, si el fiscal llegara a tener conocimiento del mismo, los cargos de los que se lo acusa, la determinación de extradición del acusado y, bajo pedido, a ser notificada e informada antes de cualquier disposición del caso dictada antes del juicio.

7. Aviso y presencia en las actuaciones públicas

A recibir aviso razonable de todas las actuaciones públicas, como por ejemplo actuaciones de delincuencia, bajo pedido, en las que el acusado y el fiscal tengan derecho a estar presentes, y todas las actuaciones de libertad condicional o de liberación posteriores a la condena, y a estar presente en dichas actuaciones.

8. Comparecencia en actuaciones de la corte y expresión de sus puntos de vista

A que se la escuche, bajo pedido, en cualquiera de dichas actuaciones, incluso en una actuación de delincuencia donde se delibere una decisión de puesta en libertad después de un arresto, declaración de culpabilidad o inocencia, sentencia, decisión de puesta en libertad después de la condena o cualquier otra actuación que afecte el derecho de la víctima.

9. Juicio rápido y conclusión oportuna del caso

A un juicio rápido, y a una conclusión oportuna y final del caso y de todas las actuaciones posteriores al fallo.

10. Proporcionar información al Departamento de Libertad Vigilada

A proporcionar información a un funcionario del departamento de libertad vigilada que esté realizando una investigación previa a la sentencia, sobre el impacto de la infracción cometida sobre la víctima y la familia de la víctima, y a proporcionar recomendaciones de sentencia antes de que se dicte la sentencia del acusado.

11. Acceso al informe previo a la sentencia

A recibir, bajo pedido, el informe previo a la sentencia cuando éste se ponga a disposición del acusado, salvo aquellas porciones confidenciales conforme a la ley.

12. Información sobre la condena, sentencia, encarcelamiento, liberación y escape

A ser informada, bajo pedido, de la condena, sentencia, lugar y fecha de encarcelamiento, u otra disposición dada al acusado, la fecha programada de puesta en libertad del acusado y la liberación o escape del acusado de su custodia.

13. Restitución

A. El pueblo del estado de California tiene la intención inequívoca de que todas las personas que sufran pérdidas como consecuencia de una actividad penal tengan el derecho a solicitar y recibir restitución de las personas condenadas por haber cometido los delitos que causaron las pérdidas que sufrieron.

B. En caso de que la víctima haya sufrido una pérdida, se ordenará al malhechor en todos los casos que pague restitución, independientemente de la sentencia o disposición dictada.

C. Todos los pagos monetarios, dinero y bienes incautados a una persona a quien se ordenó el pago de restitución se aplicarán primero al pago de los montos de restitución a la víctima que se hayan ordenado.

14. El retorno puntual de sus bienes

Al retorno puntual de sus bienes cuando ya no se los necesite como prueba.

15. Aviso de actuaciones de libertad condicional y puesta en libertad condicional

A ser informada de todas las actuaciones de libertad condicional, a participar en el proceso de libertad condicional, a proporcionar información a la autoridad de de libertad condicional con el objeto de que se la considere antes de otorgar la libertad condicional al infractor, y a ser notificada, bajo pedido, de la libertad condicional u otro tipo de libertad otorgada al infractor.

16. Considerar la seguridad de la víctima y el público para otorgar libertad condicional

A que se considere la seguridad de la víctima, de la familia de la víctima y del público en general antes de tomar una decisión de otorgar la libertad condicional u otro tipo de libertad posterior al fallo.

17. Información sobre estos 16 derechos

A que se le informe sobre los derechos enumerados en los párrafos (1) a (16).

Para obtener más información sobre la Ley de Marsy, visite el sitio web del Procurador General en: