A criminal case begins when a prosecutor (District Attorney) files formal charges, a person is arrested, or a grand jury issues an indictment. In all criminal cases, the defendant (person accused of a crime) is presumed to be innocent. That means he or she may not be convicted of a crime unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Learn more about:
Online criminal law help:
Get help in person:
Frequently Asked Questions:
Click on the questions below to get answers to some of the questions people have about their criminal law cases:
You have to go to court on your scheduled court date in almost all cases. If you do not go to the scheduled court appearance on time, the judge may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.
It is very important that you check the court or legal papers you have to find out the day and time you must go to court. You can find this information on one of the following documents:
If you have been calendared for a holiday, Saturday or Sunday please go to the Criminal Division counter in person the Monday following the Saturday or Sunday or the first working day following the holiday.
There are 3 different locations where a criminal case might be heard in the Contra Costa Superior court. These are:
When you get to the courthouse, check the calendar on the wall for your name and the department where your case will be heard. If you do not see your name on one of the criminal calendar lists, go to the criminal Clerk's Office to ask about your case.
If you want to change the date you are scheduled to go to court, you can ask your attorney to contact the court, or you can call the criminal court clerk where your case will be heard.
It is very important to go to court on the scheduled court date. If you call on the same day you were supposed to be in court, the clerk can only take a message to the judge. The clerk cannot tell you that day whether the judge has agreed to continue the court date. You must call the criminal court clerk the next day to find out what the judge decided.
If you did not go to court on the day and time your hearing was scheduled, and you did not get the hearing changed to another day, you may ask that your case be added to the calendar. There may or may not be room on a court calendar for your case to be heard on another day. You must go in person to the Criminal Division window of the clerk’s office to find out if you can have your case added onto the criminal calendar on another day. There is more information on add-on requests in the local court rules.
If you do not hire your own lawyer, you can ask the court to appoint one. To do this, you must go to your first court appearance and ask the judge. The court will then appoint either the Public Defender or a private attorney to represent you. When your case ends, the judge will consider your income, expenses, and other factors to decide how much (if any) of the court-appointed lawyer’s legal fees you must pay. The court may also charge you for supervised probation, weekend jail, restitution payments (to compensate the victim) or other court fees.
In addition to bringing a valid identification document (driver's license, passport, or other picture identification), you should bring other documents such as:
You can find out whether someone who has been arrested is in custody by calling the agency (for example, the police or sheriff’s department) that arrested this person.
The criminal division clerks maintain an index of filings and a record of dispositions (judicial decisions.) Court staff cannot look up any criminal records over the telephone. To get information about, or copies of documents from a criminal case, you can write to or visit the Criminal clerks office. If you make your request in writing, be sure to include:
If you have received a DUI ticket, your court hearing date and time will be listed on the ticket. The court will also send a notice about your hearing to the address registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you did not get a notice, or are unsure about when you have to come to court, please call the criminal clerk's office (925-646-4099) for the branch listed on your ticket.
Driving after you have taken drugs or alcohol is not safe! You can hurt yourself or someone else, and the court can make you:
Your punishment might be even more serious if:
Exhibits are documents or objects produced by a party in an action for identification and may be admitted into evidence during a trial or hearing. Once the trial or hearing has been concluded, the court may order the exhibits to be released to counsel or parties appearing in propria persona, or parties may stipulate to the return of exhibits pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1952, or Penal Code sections 1417 through 1420.
Exhibits are maintained in several locations throughout the Contra Costa Superior Court.
The public can view marked exhibits without a court order, except for the following:
Exhibits can be viewed at the location where the trial took place during normal business hours. You must fill out a “Request to View Exhibits” form. Please contact the Exhibit Clerk to schedule your appointment to view exhibits.
The public can obtain copies of marked exhibits without a court order, except for the following:
Copies of exhibits may be purchased at the location where the trial took place during normal business hours (8a.m. to 1p.m.). The cost for copies is $0.50 per page. Most copy jobs can be completed while you wait; however, a large quantity copy job may require more time and a pick up date and time will be provided to you by the clerk. Please contact the Exhibit Clerk to schedule your appointment to view the exhibits.
You will need to contact the Exhibits Clerk or visit the court at the following locations:
Exhibits may be released to the party to whom the exhibits belong or the party’s attorney upon the conclusion of the case and the appeal period has expired. The party requesting that exhibits be returned must prepare and submit a “Declaration and Order for Release of Exhibits” form. If you will be requesting exhibits, please specify which exhibits are to be returned. Upon the Court approving the Declaration and Order for Release of Exhibits the Clerk’s Office will contact you to arrange pick up time. The Court requires individuals to present photo identification (driver’s license, California identification card, or valid photo identification).