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The Purpose of the Pre-Trial Conference


In San Mateo County, your attorney attends a pre-trial conference. At the pre-trial conference, he or she has a conference with the judge and the prosecutor, either in the judge’s chambers or in a conference room. As the client, you are not present for that. You’re in the courtroom or out in the hallway usually, unless you’re not needed there and that will depend on what your attorney wants.

Pre-Trial Conference: The Attorney Negotiates with the DA to Dismiss the Charges, Reduce the Charges or Go To Trial; If You Accept a Plea, the Judge Informs Your Attorney What the Sentence Will Be

The DA will be the one who makes the decision on whether or not they will drop the charges or reduce them or do none of the above. Once it’s been agreed as to what you are entering as a plea, if they’re not dismissing and if you’re not going to trial, the judge will say what the sentence will be if you accept that offer.

Depending on the case, sometimes I will have two or three pre-trials or more. This is often because I’m just waiting for the DA to get me the discovery that I need.

The Penalties for DUI Escalate in San Matteo County for Multiple Offenses, High Blood-Alcohol Contents or If Other Parties Received Injuries

The penalties in San Mateo County escalate for multiple offenses or if you have a first offense with a really high blood alcohol level and some pretty bad driving. They escalate on a first offense as well if there are any injuries to other parties involved.

In These Situations, the DA May Request Bail in Order for You to Be Released from Jail

In those situations with the multiple offenses and high blood alcohol levels and hit and runs and injuries, what the DA is usually looking for at the first court appearance is some type of a bail to be set. They’re usually looking for at least $10,000 if not significantly more. They may request other conditions such as alcohol monitoring or supervised OR. This would mean you’d have to check in at least once a week with the recognizance unit, which is the probation department in San Mateo County.

It Is Vital for the Defense Attorney to Plan Ahead for His or Her Client in DUI Charges Involving Bail

Planning ahead—That is a very good path to follow for a DUI lawyer who’s representing you in San Mateo County and also in other counties—and this has become almost the norm is when you have these types of cases. If a client has been arrested with a really high blood alcohol level, or has multiple offenses, or is involved in an accident with injury, or a hit and run, where the DA is going to ask for bail, it’s important to take steps ahead of time.

The Judges May Look More Favorably on a Defendant That Is Proactive about Receiving Treatment for a Substance Abuse Issue

You usually have a month or more before that first court date. I very often advise clients in these situations to start attending AA meetings and have your attendance documented. I can give clients paperwork that they use specifically for AA meetings and instruct them to obtain signatures for every day if possible.

That’s something the judges in San Mateo really like to see to prevent a high bail being set. When a judge sets a high bail for you when you’re in a courtroom that means you don’t leave out the door you came in. You go out the back door with the bailiff, the deputy and you’re in custody until you can bail out or until you come to court again if you can’t afford to bail out.

The Voluntary Wearing of Electronic Monitoring Devices and Entry into Residential Treatment Programs May Forestall a High Bail Being Imposed

I will also have clients depending on the severity of their cases, voluntarily wear an electronic monitoring device to show the court that you’re not drinking. That means an ankle bracelet, which you’d have to pay for and then showing consistent monitoring over however many days or weeks or months before your court date.

In some cases, I will recommend a client enter—and is something they may need to do in the future as an alternative to jail—into a residential treatment program. Some of them work; some don’t. Some are extremely expensive while some aren’t that expensive. But it’s something that shows the court that you’re serious as an accused of not repeating whatever happened. If they can see that, they’re a lot more likely to say, “We’re not going to set a bail.”

A High Bail Is an Expensive Endeavor

It is possible that a judge will set a bail for you at $50,000 or $100,000 on a multiple offense DUI or an injury DUI. That is a risk when you go into court if you are not on ankle monitoring and/or in a program attending AA meetings. You risk going to jail because they set a high bail.

Let’s say they set a $100,000 bail. You’re going to have to have someone post bail for you if you can’t bail yourself out. That usually means either putting up the whole amount or going to a bail bondsman and paying at the very best 7% to the bail bondsman.

That would be $7000 right out the door there and then you got to have collateral for the rest. They’ve got to know you’re good for it and got to have something to back it up. It is far better to listen to your DUI lawyer. The advice you receive before going into the first court appearance on the more serious DUI cases is critical.

It Is Always Advisable to Consult with a DUI Attorney for Advice on How Best to Avoid Having a Judge Impose an Onerous Bail Amount

As an example, if you’re a .13, no prior arrests or convictions, with no injuries or accidents and no additional charges. Other than the DUI, this client doesn’t need to worry about doing the AA meetings before they go to court. But they should always talk to their lawyer because every case is different. They should talk about attending meetings because sometimes it can be helpful in our negotiations with the DA.

When you get arrested, we don’t know what judge we’re going to be in front of for the pre-trial conference. That rotates around. There’s no little way to know that in San Matteo, as there is in certain other counties. We also don’t know who the prosecutor is going to be because by the time it gets to the pre-trial conference it may have rotated to someone else.

By Aaron Bortel

Aaron Bortel

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