Fresno Court (Fresno Superior Courthouse)

Fresno, California is the fifth largest city in the state and lies right in the center of the San Joaquin Valley. Its population is more than one million, and its name means ash tree in Spanish. Cases for those who break the law there, from misdemeanors such as speeding to felonies such as murder or rape, are handled at the Fresno Superior Courthouse. A felony conviction in the state is punishable by a state prison sentence or by death. Punishment for a misdemeanor is a fine and/or time spent in a city or county jail instead of the state prison. An infraction for a minor traffic violation is usually handled by paying a fine.

By pleading guilty to a felony, the defendant must acquire an attorney. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the district attorney must five evidence at the preliminary hearing that the defendant did commit the crime. The judge will decide if there is enough evidence to call a trial; if so, the defendant will be formally charged and the trial will begin. For misdemeanors, a defendant who pleads guilty may receive a sentence at the initial arraignment. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date will be set, to be held with 30 days if the defendant is being held in custody and within 45 days if not.

Bail bonds are also handled in the Fresno Superior Courthouse. Through a bail bond, the defendant is released from jail and the bondsman guarantees that the defendant will appear in court at the appointed date. For this service, the defendant, or whoever takes the bond, is charged about 10 percent, which is non-refundable, of the total bail amount. The state’s Department of Insurance sets the charges for all bail bonds. In cases where a bail bond is issued, if the defendant does not show up for the court date, any bond money is forfeited and a so-called bench warrant goes out for his or her arrest. If all efforts at locating the defendant are unsuccessful, specialists known as bounty hunters may be sent out for the arrest. The longer the fugitive stays away, the higher the eventual court fees will be.

In Fresno Superior Courthouse and most other such courts, the bail bond, known as a surety bond, is the most common way of getting out of jail. Other methods include the cash bond, which requires the total amount of the bond to be paid in cash to the court. An O.R., which means a release on own recognizance, may be charged against a person who is thought to be a very slight risk, such as having no criminal record or caught in a non-violent offense such as shoplifting. A release on citation, or Cite Out, is much like a traffic ticket. The citation is issued, but the person charged does not ever go to jail, although he or she must show up for court at the appointed date.

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