What Happens if a Domestic Violence Accuser Doesn't Show Up for Court?

What happens if a domestic violence accuser doesn't show up for court

When a domestic violence accuser doesn't appear in court, it raises several questions and legal considerations. This absence can significantly impact the case, potentially leading to changes in how the defense approaches the situation. It's essential for defendants to understand their rights and the legal implications of this scenario. Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers are committed to guiding you through these complexities.

Our focus is on ensuring that defendants are well-informed about their rights and the potential results of their cases. This includes understanding the legal process, the role of the accuser, and how their absence might affect the case. We understand the severity of being charged with domestic violence, and in the absence of the alleged victim's testimony, you could have your domestic violence charges dropped.

A domestic violence conviction can bring enduring changes to your life, so be sure to reach out to our criminal defense lawyer to schedule a case consultation.

Understanding Your Rights in a Domestic Violence Case

In any domestic violence case, understanding your rights is crucial. These rights are the foundation of your defense and guide how your case is handled. As a defendant, you're entitled to certain legal protections, which remain intact regardless of the accuser's presence or absence in court. Our team at Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers upholds your rights throughout the legal process.

The Presumption of Innocence: What It Means for You

The legal system upholds the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence. It means you are considered innocent until proven guilty. This principle remains central to your defense, especially in cases where the accuser does not show up for court. Our attorneys leverage this presumption to strengthen your defense.

Understanding this principle can help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty you might feel. Keep in mind that the responsibility to prove lies with the prosecution, not with you. Our defense strategies are tailored to emphasize this point, ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the case.

Going Through The Legal Representation: Choosing the Right Defense Attorney

Selecting the right defense attorney is a critical decision in your case. An adept lawyer can navigate the intricacies of your domestic violence case, especially when the accuser is absent. At Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers, we specialize in providing robust defense strategies tailored to your unique situation.

Our approach involves thoroughly analyzing your case and considering all possible outcomes. We aim to ensure you understand the legal process and what to expect. Our commitment is to advocate for your best interests and to work towards the most favorable outcome.

Understanding Bail and Release Conditions in Domestic Violence Cases

Bail and release conditions are key aspects of domestic violence cases. These terms dictate what you can and cannot do while your case is pending. Understanding these conditions is vital, as non-compliance can have serious consequences.

Our team helps you understand these conditions and ensures you adhere to them. We also explore opportunities to modify these conditions when appropriate, especially if the accuser does not appear in court. Our goal is to minimize the impact of these conditions on your daily life while your case is ongoing.

The Role of the Accuser in Domestic Violence Proceedings

The role of the accuser in domestic violence proceedings

The accuser plays a significant role in domestic battery proceedings. Their testimony and presence can heavily influence the direction and outcome of the case. Understanding this role is essential in formulating an effective defense strategy against allegations of a violent incident.

Impact of the Accuser's Absence on the Case

When the accuser is absent, it can change the dynamics of the case. This absence can lead to questions about the credibility of the accusations and the strength of the prosecution's case. Our attorneys assess how this absence affects your case and adjust our strategy accordingly.

The absence of the accuser can sometimes lead to a weaker case for the prosecution. This situation provides an opportunity for us to fight for a case dismissal or reduction of criminal charges. We carefully evaluate the impact of the accuser's absence and use it to strengthen your defense.

Legal Obligations of the Accuser in Court Appearances

The accuser has certain legal obligations when it comes to court appearances. Understanding these obligations can inform your defense strategy. Our team examines whether the accuser's absence might indicate weaknesses in the prosecution's case.

We also consider the legal implications of the accuser's failure to appear. This can include exploring whether their absence could lead to the case being dismissed or charges being reduced. Our focus is on ensuring that your rights are protected throughout this process.

How the Prosecution May Proceed Without the Accuser

Even without the accuser's presence, the prosecution may proceed with the case. They can use other evidence, such as police reports, medical records showing serious injuries, or witness statements. Our role is to critically analyze this evidence and challenge its validity when appropriate. If we can prove that there is a false police report, we can show that there is not sufficient evidence to support the alleged crime.

Understanding the prosecution's strategy allows us to build a more effective defense. We explore all avenues to weaken the prosecution's case and strengthen yours. Our expertise in handling cases where the accuser is absent is a key asset in your defense. Contact our experienced criminal defense attorney, and let us try to cast reasonable doubt on the charges against you.

Legal Consequences of an Accuser's Absence

The accuser's absence can have legal consequences for your case. This scenario can lead to changes in how the case is prosecuted and defended. It's important to understand these consequences to better navigate your defense strategy.

The absence can sometimes work in your favor, leading to a potential dismissal or reduction of charges. However, this is not guaranteed. Our attorneys assess each case individually, considering the specific details and how they affect your situation. Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation.

How the Absence of an Accuser Can Affect Case Outcomes

How the absence of an accuser can affect case outcomes

The absence of the accuser can significantly impact the outcome of your case. This impact varies depending on the specifics of each case. Our team closely examines these specifics to determine your defense's best course of action.

In some cases, this absence can lead to a more favorable outcome for you. However, it's important to approach each case with a comprehensive defense strategy, regardless of the accuser's presence or absence.

Strategies for Defense When the Accuser Does Not Appear

  1. Assess the Strength of the Prosecution's Case. Without the accuser's testimony, we evaluate the remaining evidence to determine the prosecution's case strength.
  2. Explore Dismissal Opportunities. We consider whether the accuser's absence provides grounds for dismissing the case or reducing charges.
  3. Challenge Remaining Evidence. Our team scrutinizes any remaining evidence, such as police reports or witness statements, for weaknesses.
  4. Focus on Your Rights and Presumption of Innocence. We emphasize your right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence throughout the proceedings.
  5. Prepare for Alternative Outcomes. We prepare for various outcomes, including trial or negotiation for a plea deal, depending on the case's progression.

Exploring Dismissal Possibilities in Domestic Violence Cases

Exploring dismissal possibilities in domestic violence cases

The possibility of dismissal is an important aspect to consider in felony domestic violence cases. This becomes especially relevant when the accuser does not appear in court. Our attorneys explore every opportunity for dismissal based on the specifics of your case.

We analyze the legal grounds for dismissal and argue these points effectively in court. Our aim is to ensure that your case is treated fairly and justly, considering all relevant factors and circumstances.

The Importance of Evidence Beyond Accuser Testimony

In domestic violence cases, evidence beyond the accuser's testimony can play a crucial role. This includes physical evidence, witness statements, and other documentation. Our team thoroughly examines all available evidence to build a strong defense.

We challenge any evidence that is questionable or weak. Our goal is to ensure that only reliable and credible evidence is considered in your case. This approach is integral to providing you with the most robust defense possible.

Navigating Post-Trial Scenarios and Appeals in Domestic Violence Cases

Post-trial scenarios and appeals are critical components of domestic violence cases. These stages require careful navigation and strategic planning. Our attorneys are experienced in handling appeals and post-trial motions, ensuring your rights are protected even after the trial concludes.

We assess the trial's outcome and explore options for appeals or other post-trial relief. Our commitment is to continue advocating for your best interests, regardless of the trial's initial outcome.

Contact Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers for Your Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

Contact Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers for your domestic violence defense attorney

If you are charged with domestic violence, choosing the right defense attorney is crucial. Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers specialize in these cases, providing expert legal representation and guidance. Our approach is tailored to your unique situation, ensuring the best possible defense.

Contact us for a consultation to discuss your case and how we can help. Trust us to navigate the complexities of your case with skill and dedication.

What Constitutes Domestic Violence in California?

What constitutes domestic violence in California

Are you facing domestic violence related charges or accusations? Understanding what constitutes domestic violence in California is crucial. Domestic violence pertains to abuse or threats of abuse within a specific type of relationship. It's a serious issue that California law addresses with strict penalties. These laws are in place to protect the public and punish offenders. However, they also come with complexities that anyone accused should understand. At Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers, we have experience defending clients against allegations of domestic violence crimes.

California domestic violence laws are complicated. In California, domestic violence isn't limited to physical harm. It also encompasses emotional, psychological, and economic abuse. The California Penal Code is designed to address various forms of domestic violence. Recognizing the breadth of behaviors classified as domestic violence is essential, especially for those accused.

Understanding California's Legal Definition of Domestic Violence

California domestic violence law defines domestic violence as abuse or threats of abuse when the involved individuals are in an intimate relationship. While many of these charges are covered under Penal Code 243(e)(1) (domestic battery), others are covered under Penal Code 273.5 (inflicting corporal injury on an intimate partner). This includes married couples, domestic partners, those in dating relationships, and co-parents. Abuse extends beyond the physical; it can be verbal, emotional, or psychological.

The state's definition also extends to those who have previously been in such relationships. This ensures that individuals continue to receive protection even after a relationship ends. Understanding this broad definition is key to navigating the legal landscape of domestic violence cases in California.

Types of Conduct Classified as Domestic Violence in California

Types of conduct classified as domestic violence in California

In California, various types of conduct can be classified as domestic violence. This includes physical acts like hitting or shoving and non-physical acts like intimidation or threats. Other forms of abuse, such as damaging someone's property, disrupting their peace, or even indirect actions through others, can also fall under domestic violence. This could lead the prosecutor to file domestic violence charges against you.

Physical Abuse and its Legal Implications

Physical abuse is frequently the most identifiable form of domestic violence. It includes any form of physical force against the individual, causing or attempting to cause injury. Examples are hitting, slapping, pushing, and any other physical attack. Sexual assault against a former spouse or intimate partner is also considered domestic violence.

The legal implications of physical abuse in California are significant. Conviction can lead to jail time, restraining orders, and mandatory participation in batterer's programs. These consequences underscore the seriousness with which California treats physical abuse in domestic violence cases.

Emotional and Psychological Abuse: What This Means

Psychological and emotional abuse in California involves behaviors that inflict emotional or psychological trauma. This includes threats, intimidation, and manipulation. Such abuse can be as damaging as physical violence, though it's often harder to prove in court.

In legal terms, proving emotional or psychological abuse requires showing a pattern of behavior that causes fear or emotional harm. This might include threatening messages, public humiliation, or controlling behaviors. Recognizing these forms of abuse is essential for defendants to understand the charges against them.

The Role of Harassment and Stalking in Domestic Violence Cases

Harassment and stalking are also forms of domestic violence abuse committed in California. Harassment involves a pattern of unwanted attention or behavior that causes fear or concern for safety. Stalking involves the repeated act of following, harassing, or threatening someone to the extent that they fear for their safety or the safety of their family.

Engaging in these behaviors can result in significant legal repercussions. They are often grounds for a domestic violence restraining order and can result in criminal charges. Understanding the gravity of these actions is vital for those engaged in a domestic violence case.

The Impact of Domestic Violence Charges on Your Record

The presence of domestic abuse charges on your record can have long-lasting effects. It can impact your employment opportunities, professional licensure, and even your reputation. In California, these charges can also affect child custody and visitation rights.

Having a domestic violence conviction may lead to a criminal record, posing a significant barrier in various aspects of life. It's important for defendants to understand the long-term consequences of a domestic violence case. This understanding is vital in making informed decisions about how to handle their case.

Defending Against Domestic Violence Allegations in Court

Defending against domestic violence allegations in court

Defending against domestic violence allegations in a California court requires a strategic approach. Each case is unique and demands a thorough understanding of the facts and the law. An effective defense involves challenging the credibility of the evidence. This weakens the prosecutor's case. If we can weaken the case enough, we could get your case dismissed.

Strategies for Contesting Evidence

Contesting evidence in domestic violence cases can involve questioning the reliability of witness testimonies or the validity of physical evidence. Defense attorneys might also present alternative explanations for the alleged behavior. This requires careful analysis and strategic planning.

Another strategy is highlighting inconsistencies in the accuser's story or the prosecution's case. Demonstrating these inconsistencies can raise a reasonable doubt about the defendant's guilt. This approach can be pivotal in the outcome of a domestic violence case.

Importance of Witness Testimony and Character References

Witness testimony and character references can play a significant role in a domestic violence case. Witnesses who can attest to the dynamics of the relationship or the events in question can provide crucial context. Character references can also help paint a broader picture of the defendant's personality and behavior.

These testimonies and references can help counter negative portrayals by the prosecution. They can demonstrate the defendant's usual conduct and character, providing a counterbalance to the allegations. Utilizing these resources effectively is a key part of the defense strategy.

Navigating Plea Bargains and Sentencing Options

Plea bargains and sentencing options are important considerations in domestic violence cases. Plea bargains can sometimes offer a resolution without the need for a trial. These agreements often involve pleading guilty to a lesser charge instead of a felony. In exchange, you might receive a more lenient sentence.

Understanding the sentencing options available is also crucial. Sentencing in domestic violence cases can vary widely, from probation and counseling to jail time. Knowledge of these options helps in making informed decisions about how to proceed with the case.

California's Protective Order Laws and Your Rights

California's protective order laws are designed to protect alleged victims of domestic violence. These orders can restrict the accused from contacting or approaching the accuser. Understanding these laws and your rights under them is crucial. This is particularly true if you are facing domestic violence restraining orders.

Protective orders can have significant implications for the accused. They can affect living arrangements, child custody, and even gun ownership rights. Navigating these laws requires careful consideration and legal guidance.

Consequences of a Domestic Violence Conviction

Consequences of a domestic violence conviction

A domestic violence conviction in California carries serious consequences. It can result in jail time, fines, and mandatory participation in a domestic violence program. This can restrict your freedom in significant ways. Common domestic violence crimes are prosecuted vigorously, so you need to respond with a strong defense.

The long-term effects of a domestic violence crime conviction can impact your life in countless ways. Understanding these consequences is important for anyone facing domestic violence charges.

How to Prepare for Your Domestic Violence Case

  1. Gather Evidence. Collect any relevant evidence to the case. This might include text messages, emails, or photographs that can support your case.
  2. Document Everything. Keep a detailed record of events related to the case, including dates, times, and the names of any witnesses.
  3. Understand the Charges. Learn about the specific charges against you and what they entail. This helps in preparing an effective defense.
  4. Consult a Lawyer. Pursue legal advice from an experienced domestic violence defense attorney. They can guide you through the legal process and help develop a defense strategy.
  5. Stay Informed. Stay informed about the legal process and any developments in your case. This includes understanding court dates and legal procedures. It also covers any changes in the charges or evidence against you.

How Our Orange County Domestic Violence Lawyer Helps You

  1. Expert Legal Representation. Our experienced attorneys provide expert legal representation. We guide you through each step of the legal process. We ensure your rights are protected and your voice is heard.
  2. Developing a Defense Strategy. We carefully review your case details to develop a strong defense strategy. This includes challenging the prosecution's evidence and presenting counterarguments.
  3. Negotiating Plea Deals. If appropriate, we negotiate plea deals on your behalf. We fight to earn the most favorable outcome possible. This might mean reduced charges or lighter sentencing.
  4. Providing Support and Guidance. Facing domestic violence charges can be overwhelming. We provide the support and guidance you need. We help you understand your options. We will guide you in the right direction.
  5. Preparing for Trial. If your case goes to trial, we prepare meticulously. We gather evidence, line up witnesses, and build a compelling case to present in court.

Contact Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers for Your Orange County Domestic Violence Defense Attorney

Contact Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers for your Orange County domestic violence attorney

If you're facing domestic violence charges in Orange County, Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers are here to help. We know that a domestic violence charge is stressful. However, experienced attorneys will stand by your side. 

Contact us for a consultation, and let us help you face these charges with confidence and a solid defense strategy.

What a Domestic Violence Statement Recant Looks Like

What a domestic violence statement rec ent looks like

When facing a domestic violence charge, the situation can quickly become complex and stressful. One key aspect that can significantly alter the course of a case is when a witness, often the alleged victim, recants their statement. This means they take back or change their initial statement about the events. Understanding the implications of this and what it entails is crucial for those engaged in such a case.

At Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers, we understand the impact of domestic violence charges. When an alleged domestic violence victim recants, it can change the nature of the criminal charges against you. Our law firm is here to be your guide through the criminal justice system.

Learn more about the impact of recantation on your criminal case. Then, contact our experienced criminal defense attorney to schedule a case consultation.

What Does a Victim Recanting Their Prior Statement Mean?

A victim recanting their statement  in a domestic violence case occurs when the alleged victim or witness changes or withdraws their previous statement. This can mean they no longer agree with what was initially reported to the authorities. Recantation can happen at any stage of the legal process, from before charges are filed to during a trial.

Recanting a statement does not automatically mean the charges will be dropped. The decision to continue with the prosecution can depend on various factors, including the nature of the evidence. Understanding the legal nuances of recantation is crucial for those engaged in a domestic violence case. Reach out to us to learn more about how this might impact your case.

Legal Implications of Recanting a Domestic Violence Statement

Legal implications of recanting a domestic violence statement

When a witness recants their statement in a domestic violence case, it can significantly impact the case. The prosecution may need to re-evaluate the strength of their evidence. However, a recantation doesn't always mean the case will weaken or be dismissed. This is also true for anyone facing a felony domestic violence charge.

Impact on the Prosecution's Case

A recanted statement can challenge the prosecution's case, especially if the statement was a key piece of evidence. The prosecution must then decide whether to proceed based on the remaining evidence. This could include physical evidence, other witness statements, or prior incidents. This might still be enough to move forward with the case even if the accuser decides to recant a domestic violence statement.

However, it's important to note that a case can still proceed even without the recanted statement. The district attorney's office might argue that the recantation is due to intimidation or fear. They could also rely on other evidence gathered during the investigation.

Consequences for the Recanting Witness

Recanting a statement in a domestic violence case can have legal consequences for the victim. If they initially gave a false statement, they might face charges for filing a false report or perjury. However, if their recantation is genuine and based on a misinterpretation of events, these charges might not apply.

In some cases, the court might suspect coercion or pressure behind the recantation. This could lead to an investigation into whether the defendant or someone else influenced the victim’s decision to recant.

How Courts View Recanted Statements

Courts often approach recanted statements with caution. They understand that domestic violence cases can involve complex personal dynamics, which might influence a victim’s willingness to testify. Therefore, they carefully examine the reasons behind the recantation.

Judges and juries might consider whether the recantation seems genuine or if there's evidence of coercion. They also evaluate the entire body of evidence, not just the recanted statement, to make a fair judgment.

The Role of Defense Attorneys in A Recanted Statement

Defense attorneys play a crucial role when a victim recants their statement. They can challenge the credibility of the original statement and argue for the dismissal of charges. However, they must do this carefully, respecting the legal rights of all parties involved.

In cases of recantation, defense lawyers might also investigate the reasons behind the change in testimony. They work to ensure that the defendant's rights are protected throughout the legal process.

Strategies for Addressing Recanted Statements in Court

Strategies for addressing recanted statements in court

When dealing with recanted statements in court, defense attorneys employ various strategies. They might question the validity of the original statement and highlight inconsistencies. They also assess the impact of the recantation on the overall strength of the prosecution's case.

Another strategy involves examining the motivations behind the recantation. Defense attorneys need to make sure they are prepared for all possibilities. We will do the same in your case but push for the best possible outcome for you.

Does a Recanted Statement Lead To a Dismissal?

A recanted statement in a domestic violence case does not guarantee a dismissal. The prosecution evaluates the case's strength without the recanted statement. They consider other available evidence and the seriousness of the alleged offense.

The Prosecutor's Decision

The prosecutor's decision on whether to proceed with a case after a recantation is critical. They assess the remaining evidence's strength to determine if a conviction is still possible. This assessment may include reviewing physical evidence or considering testimonies from other witnesses. If the evidence seems strong enough, the prosecution may decide to continue the case despite the recantation.

The prosecutor might consider a plea deal when the evidence is weaker due to the recantation. These deals often reflect the new circumstances of the case. Defense attorneys play a key role here as they negotiate to achieve the most favorable terms for their clients. The aim is to reduce potential penalties or charges in light of the changed testimonial landscape. We will weigh the possibility of a plea deal, but if a dismissal is possible, we will push for it.

The Weight of the Other Evidence

The prosecution must evaluate the remaining evidence when a witness recants their statement in a domestic violence case. This involves looking at medical reports, police officer observations, and any history of prior incidents. The strength of this evidence can be pivotal in deciding whether the case can still lead to a conviction.

Evidence like documented injuries, police reports of the incident, 911 call, or a history of similar accusations can carry significant weight. If this corroborating evidence remains robust, the prosecution may choose to move forward with the case. The significance of this evidence underscores why a recantation doesn't automatically result in the dismissal of charges.

Possible Other Witnesses

The presence of other witnesses can significantly influence the direction of a domestic violence case, especially when the primary witness has recanted. The prosecution evaluates these witnesses to understand how their testimonies align or contrast with the original statement. Witnesses who corroborate the initial account can be pivotal in maintaining the case's integrity.

The credibility of these witnesses is crucial. The prosecution assesses whether their accounts are consistent and believable. If other witnesses provide strong supporting evidence, the case might proceed on the strength of their testimonies, even in the absence of the initial statement.

Our Next Steps After the Victim Recants

After a victim recants, defense attorneys reassess the case strategy. We might file motions to dismiss the charges or suppress certain evidence. We also prepare for possible changes in the prosecution's approach, such as introducing new evidence.

Continued communication with the client is essential during this phase. Defense attorneys keep their clients informed about the developments and possible outcomes. We also discuss any changes in defense strategy based on the recantation.

The Impact of Recantation on Your Case

The recantation of a statement can change the dynamics of your domestic violence case. It can introduce new legal arguments and affect the prosecution's strategy. Defense attorneys analyze these changes to adapt their defense effectively.

The recantation might lead to a more favorable outcome, such as reduced domestic violence charges or a better plea deal. However, it's important to remain realistic and prepared for various possibilities. Your attorney will guide you through these potential changes.

Preparing for Possible Outcomes After a Recantation

Preparing for different outcomes after a statement recantation is vital. Your defense attorney will explore various scenarios, this includes options such as going to trial or reaching a plea agreement. They will also prepare for the possibility of the case proceeding despite the recantation.

Supporting Clients Through the Legal Process

Supporting clients through legal process

At Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers, we are aware of the stress and uncertainty that come with facing a domestic violence charge. We support our clients through every step of the legal process. Our team provides guidance, legal expertise, and emotional support.

We work closely with our clients to understand their unique situations. Our goal is to provide a defense that reflects their specific needs and circumstances. We believe in a personalized approach to legal defense.

Call Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers for Your Orange County Domestic Violence Defense Lawyer

Call Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers for your Orange County domestic violence defense lawyer

When facing a domestic violence charge in Orange County and a victim has recanted their statement, Frances Prizzia Criminal Defense Lawyers are here to help. We have the expertise and experience to navigate these complex legal waters. Our team is dedicated to delivering a strong defense and standing by you throughout the process.

Our understanding extends to the nuances of domestic violence cases and the impact of recanted statements. Our approach is to thoroughly evaluate every aspect of your case and pursue the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a consultation and take the initial step towards protecting your rights and future.


Usually when I set out to write something here it is because I have an idea. I think there’s an issue out there that I can add a perspective to, be part of the solution to something. Not today. All I have are questions.

It has now been about six weeks since our courts ceased to function in a way even close to normal times. It will likely be another month before we even begin to inch back towards normalcy. I fear it may be much longer than that before we have a fully functioning justice system again.

Jury trials are the lynch pin of the criminal justice system. Sure, most cases resolve short of trial, but the prospect of trial is the great equalizer. If prosecutors and judges (and sometimes even the accused) don’t act reasonably, we have the option to “take it to the box,” and let twelve members of our community step in and resolve our dispute.

Conducting trials seems next to impossible if we are to comply with social distancing and social distancing seems here to stay for the foreseeable future, unless we want to return to shelter-in-place orders shortly after they are lifted. Picking a jury requires bringing anywhere from sixty to one hundred potential jurors into a courtroom. No courtroom can handle that capacity if people are expected to keep six feet of distance. Once selected, a jury sits in the box, in close proximity to one another. Courtrooms are designed so that the jury is in close proximity to the witnesses as they perform their function of assessing those witnesses credibility and acting as finders of fact.

It seems certain to me that it will be much harder for litigants to receive their day in front of a jury for at least the remainder of 2020. Orange County, for instance, has already announced that they will limit the number of jury trials that can be conducted at one time and that they anticipate significant difficulty in compliance with jury summonses.

A lack of access to jury trials will significantly impact prosecutors’ and courts’ incentive to resolve cases. The only immediate consequence of a failure to make a reasonable offer of settlement is likely to be that the defendant sits around waiting, not an attractive option for those in custody particularly as jails become breeding grounds for the virus.

So, that’s the problem. What is the answer? I do not know yet. But I do know our justice system does not function without access to jury trials and jury trials are not something that can happen virtually; they require bringing people together in the same place, often in close proximity. Some how, some way, we must be able to continue to do that or the system as we know it will be more broken than it was before the pandemic.


There are few places in which the balance of power is as uneven as in criminal prosecution. On one side, you have the government, with essentially unlimited resources. On the other, you have the defendant, an individual mustering whatever resources they can to fight the immense power of the government.

The Founding Fathers and courts ever since have recognized and sought to fashion ways to attempt to even this playing field to some extent. This is because, ideally, we want criminal prosecutions to be about justice. Were the government to simply view their primary goal as “winning,” they could likely do so almost all of the time due to the vast imbalances in resources, power, and information.

In this and my next blog entry, I’ll be taking a look at two recent California cases that underscore the difficulty of putting these ideas into practice. Today, I’ll be talking about the informational disadvantages that exist between the government and individual defendants and the systems in place that aim to balance that inherent inequity, if not always successfully.

Brady v. Maryland was a landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1963 that held that the prosecution must turn over all exculpatory (essentially all favorable) evidence to the defense. For example, in Brady, the prosecution had failed to turn over to the defense in a capital case a written confession from the co-defendant admitting to having been the person who actually committed the killing.

More recently, the Orange County Informant Scandal unraveled the capital case against Scott Dekraii when it was uncovered that the prosecution had failed to disclose evidence related to informants used in the prosecution that would have undermined their, and the Sheriff deputies who acted as their handlers, credibility. That case is a prime example of the principle behind Brady. The information was such that the prosecution was in a unique position to know about it and it was only through the heroic work of Deputy Public Defender Scott Sanders and a good deal of luck that it was uncovered.

As stated in Brady, “Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair." This sentiment was echoed and underscored by the 4th District Appellate Court in the decision that is the subject of my next blog. In Dekraii, the prosecution failed in their duty to put fairness ahead of winning.

A place where this concept gets incredibly difficult is the disclosure of police officer misconduct. Police agencies are considered part of the prosecution team, meaning information in the possession of a police agency is treated as information that the prosecution also knows or should know about and must turn over if exculpatory. Problematically, California has some of the most robust laws in the country when it comes to protecting police officer personnel records, to the point where police unions take the position that even the prosecution is not entitled to know information that they are under a Constitutional obligation to disclose.

In this case, the Los Angeles Sheriff Department, in an effort to comply with Brady, maintains an internal list of personnel whose records may contain Brady information so that prosecutors can make appropriate disclosures to the defense. The Deputies’ Union then sued its own department, seeking to prevent it from sharing such information.

Think about that for a moment. The prosecution is under an obligation to share with the defense information about deputy misconduct that may be exculpatory. The Sheriff’s Department knows what deputies fall into this category and indeed keeps a list of such deputies. But the union’s position is that it is unlawful to share that list with the prosecution! By definition, if the union’s position is correct, the prosecution would be unable to comply with their Constitutional obligations designed to ensure fairness to the defense in order to protect dishonest deputies.

Fortunately, on August 26th, in Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Superior Court, the California Supreme Court rejected that position. In a relatively narrow holding, the Court declared that while the Brady list maintained by the department did constitute confidential information under the statutes protecting police officer personnel records, disclosure of the list to prosecuting agencies did not violate that confidentiality.

It is worth noting what a narrow exception this case creates. Law enforcement agencies may alert prosecutors that an officer has information in their personnel file that constitutes Brady information. The prosecution, as obligated, may then share that information with the defense when required. The defense still must file a motion demonstrating the materiality of such information to even find out what it is. And this still very onerous process is one that a police union saw fit to challenge all the way to the state Supreme Court.

More reform in this area is incredibly necessary as the scales are still tipped heavily in favor of the government to the detriment of the defendant even when the government complies with all of its obligations in a trustworthy manner. And, oh by the way, when they do not it is almost impossible for the average defendant to discover the omission. Further reform must happen.

In the next blog, a companion to this one, I’ll explore a recent decision underscoring the prosecutor’s obligation to pursue fairness and justice ahead of victory.


As our country and its experiment in democracy continue to grow and evolve, one of the most confounding questions we continue to wrestle with is how to properly regulate and police institutions that we imbue with great power. The founding fathers sought to solve this problem by avoiding the concentration of power in any one branch, institution, or individual and created the ingenious system of checks and balances.

Such a system, however, only works if a number of preconditions are in place. The parties must maintain some relative equilibrium in power, they must not hold undue influence over one another, and most importantly, the forces that could serve to corrupt one party must not have similar incentives/abilities to corrupt the party we hope to have the police.

“Ok,” you’re wondering, “what is the point of all this, Frances?”

Recently, we have watched the failure of this system in two very important and high profile circumstances.

On a local level, it seems to be clearer and clearer that the Orange County Informant Scandal will be a scandal in name only, with the bad actors who brought about the scandal escaping unpunished. On a national level, while the cookie is still crumbling, we have witnessed a Justice Department, which is ostensibly supposed to operate independently with the aim of…well, justice…, operating as a politically motivated partner of President Trump.

Here in Orange County, the California Attorney General recently tried to quietly announce that their investigation into the informant scandal was complete. Despite ample evidence of misdeeds and perjury committed by law enforcement and the Orange County District Attorney’s office, the investigation is simply over without a single prosecution and not even so much as a report. The complete inaction of the Attorney General’s office as well as the United States Attorney’s Office, who have also unconvincingly claimed they were investigating the scandal without a single thing to show for it, will serve as a stain on both these offices and the decision makers who were utterly derelict in their duties.

Meanwhile, after a two year investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a position created specifically to ensure an investigation conducted independent from political pressure and foster the public trust, Attorney General William Barr did not wait 24 hours before decimating that trust and politicizing the process via an intellectually dishonest letter to Congress purporting to summarize the findings of Mueller's report. It was a transparent, politically motivated move designed to influence public perception of the report’s findings prior to its release. As I’ve said, this drama is still unfolding and we now know that Special Counsel Mueller personally objected to the content of the summary and Congress is weighing action against Barr including calls for his recusal from the investigation and the possibility of impeachment. However, much of the damage may have already been done as Barr’s letter has already significantly influenced the public debate over the report’s significance and in today’s lightning fast news cycle, that influence is hard to undo.

So, what went wrong and how do we fix this? I think there are two answers. First, watchdogs must be truly independent. In each of these cases, the entities charged with oversight were far too closely aligned and intertwined with those they were to be watching. Second, the vigilant public is the only true solution. In the context of the Mueller report, it appears the public is doing its job. This story is not simply going away as the Trump administration and Barr seemed to have hoped it might. In contrast, the public scrutiny of the informant scandal seems to have waned. After a flurry of coverage, the story became a national one. The California Attorney General and United States Attorney's Office expressed concern and assured the public that they would investigate and act. And then…they simply waited for the story to die. Sadly, it appears that they may have correctly calculated that public interest in this story would not persist.

Ultimately, all of the entities we are talking about derive their power from the public. As such, they must answer to the public when the public so demands. But, when the public is not vigilant, the incentive to perform the watchdog role subsides.

At the end of the day, we are the watchers. Each and every one of us. We cannot, unfortunately, trust that the watchdogs will be watching unless we are willing to vigilantly watch them.


Resisting arrest, even when innocent of any crime, is a criminal act in and of itself that can be used to make you appear guilty of other charges. Is the inverse true then? Does cooperating fully with the police help you in your criminal defense case, and can it help reduce your charges or have them dismissed?

Unfortunately, the scales are not perfectly balanced. While interfering with and harassing a police officer will put you in cuffs, being subservient and telling them everything they want to know will not get you out of them. But it might help. To get to the bottom of the question of whether or not cooperation helps you, we need to examine another imbalance inherent in the criminal justice system.


After you have been arrested for a crime, the law enforcement officers present may try to get you to talk, or to cooperate with their investigation, after reading your Miranda rights. They may say that you are not in any trouble and they just want some answers. They may even claim that you will face lesser charges if you give them some evidence upfront, like where your accomplices went or what it is you stole. This is where things get deceptive and you need to take a grain of salt.

While it is illegal for you to lie to a law enforcement official – this can constitute obstruction of justice if an investigation or questioning is underway – it is not illegal for them to lie to you. When the officer says they will help you out if you talk, they probably won't. Or they probably can't due to the limitations of their job description. To this end, your cooperation should never become your own self-incrimination.

After you have been arrested, simply say you want to use your Fifth Amendment rights to remain silent and wait for an attorney to represent you. While you technically aren't helping them with your silence, you certainly aren't being uncooperative or disruptive. And remember: most police officers are just men and women doing their jobs and who do not want any trouble – if you do not want to remain respectfully quiet and calm for your own sake, you can at least do it for theirs.

If you need an Orange County criminal defense attorney to represent you after you have been charged with a crime, you should look no further than The Law Office of Frances Prizzia. Our lead attorney, Ms. Prizzia, was rewarded the 2015 Avvo Clients' Choice Award for criminal defense! And we offer FREE case evaluations to all inquiring clients.


Why do you need a criminal defense attorney after you have been charged for a crime? The question has crossed the minds of probably everyone who has ever been arrested for what they considered to be a minor violation. Others still know they are innocent of any wrongdoing and assume that the court will surely see things the same way. That's the point of the criminal justice system, is it not? To sort out the wrongdoers from everyone else?

There is a longstanding mantra that the law and litigation are less about knowing and more about proving. And this is one of many reasons why you really do need a criminal defense attorney, even for misdemeanor charges.


  1. Difference between knowing and proving: Your rights as described under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States permit you to stay silent when you are being arrested. This is not so you can collect your thoughts, it is so you don't say the wrong things and incriminate yourself of a crime you didn't commit. Innocent people are convicted of crimes every year, mostly because they only knew they were innocent but were unable to prove it.
  2. Penalties can be reduced: Imagine the scenario where you are caught "red-handed" while stealing something. Do you need a criminal defense attorney now, when the evidence is so clearly stacked against you? Yes! Even when a conviction is practically guaranteed, the penalties never are. An experienced defense lawyer can fight to have your sentencing minimized, possibly making it so your arrest and conviction never show up on your criminal record.
  3. One mark is all it takes: And speaking of criminal records, the moment a single mark shows up under your name, you must be aware that employers, landlords, educational institutions, and more will start to turn away from you. Misdemeanor or a felony, it doesn't matter – to many people, a conviction is a conviction is a conviction.

You may also wish to consider that the federal government itself recognizes the importance of a criminal defense attorney. When someone is arrested, the very same Fifth Amendment entitles them to a public defender if they cannot afford their own; albeit, public defenders are often overworked and impersonal, but this does not diminish the importance of their role in our country. Laws are complicated, to say the least, but a lawyer has dedicated their career to understanding, interpreting, and upholding them.

If you live in Southern California and have been arrested for a criminal act, you should contact The Law Office of Frances Prizzia. Our Orange County criminal defense attorney has a long history of successful case results to her name and an "Excellent" Avvo Rating. Find out what she can do for you by calling 888.392.8114 for a free consultation.