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Address:1164 Solano Avenue
Albany, CA 94706
Address: 360 Ritch Street, Suite 201
San Francisco, CA 94107


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Do I need a lawyer? If so, when should I hire a lawyer?

It is important that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. The prosecutor is an attorney and it is good to have someone on your side that has experience with criminal procedure, rules of evidence, and can represent you at trial or negotiate a plea for you. You should hire an attorney as early in your case as possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the more time and information he will have to achieve the best possible outcome.

See examples of Seth P. Chazin's successful representation even prior to filing charges:

Should I talk to the police?

No. Do not make an oral or written statement to the police without consulting an attorney. You may not realize how something you say may be used against you. The police have the right to be dishonest or make false promises to convince you to make a statement. Anything you say to the police may be used against you. Wait for the advice of an attorney before speaking with the police.

You have the right to an attorney and the right not to speak with the police. See discussion of your Miranda rights.

What is the typical procedure in criminal court?

The process depends on if you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor.

A felony is a crime which is punished by imprisonment in the state prison.
A misdemeanor is a crime which is punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year.
Wobbler” offenses can be punished either as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Your first court appearance is normally an arraignment after the filing of a criminal complaint or indictment by a grand jury. At this appearance, you plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest. You will almost always enter a plea of not guilty at the time of the arraignment. This is also generally when bail is set.

If you enter a not guilty plea on a felony case, a preliminary hearing will likely be set. This hearing provides the District Attorney the opportunity to show that a crime was more likely than not committed and that the defendant was more likely than not the person who committed the crime. This is different from a trial where the District Attorney has to prove that you are guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” When the District Attorney wins a preliminary hearing, it simply means that the case will go forward. It does not mean you have been found guilty of anything.

If there is sufficient evidence produced at the preliminary hearing, an Information is filed. You will be arraigned on the Information and a trial date may be set.

For a misdemeanor, a complaint is filed and you plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest at the arraignment. A pretrial hearing is often set. If necessary, a trial will then be set.

For any type of case, if you do not yet have a lawyer at the time of arraignment, you may ask for more time to hire one before entering a plea.

How is bail determined?

Bail is typically determined at the initial court appearance, the arraignment. The court will consider if the defendant is a threat to public safety and if the defendant is a flight risk. Bail is typically set according to the county bail schedule. Depending on the facts of the case, defendants may be able to be released on their own recognizance (OR) or have their bail reduced. Often a bail hearing will need to be set if there is a significant dispute as to the amount of bail or whether a defendant should be released on his or her own recognizance.

Do I have to go to court?

If you are charged with a felony, you must appear in court. In some circumstances, the judge may grant a waiver of appearance.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, other than domestic violence, you may have an attorney appear for you. In some instances, a defendant answering to charges of domestic violence may also have their appearance waived.

Will the lawyer keep out illegally seized evidence?

You have Constitutional rights. If you have been arrested and the evidence has been seized in violation of your Constitutional rights, your attorney can ask the court to exclude this evidence. It is important to ask the attorney if he or she routinely makes these motions pursuant to California penal Code section 1538.5. You and your case deserve a criminal defense attorney who actually understands the law in this area.

Is merely attempting to commit a crime an offense?

If you made a substantial step in attempting to commit a crime, you may be charged with Attempt of that offense.

What are probation and parole?

A defendant may be sentenced to probation as an alternative to being sentenced to prison. Probation will involve several conditions the defendant must comply with in order to stay out of jail. These rules may include regularly reporting to a probation officer, participating in drug testing, meeting a curfew, keeping employment, being subject to search without a warrant, etc.

Parole refers to when a prisoner is released from prison. He will be supervised by a parole officer and many similar conditions to probation will likely be enforced.

For more information about appeals click here.

For information about having your case expunged click here.

How does sentencing work?

A judge usually determines your sentence. It may depend on the facts of the crime, past offenses, if anyone was injured as a result of your crime, a showing of remorse, and various other factors.

For drug crimes, you may be eligible to participate in one of the following programs depending on your circumstances:

  • Deferred Entry of Judgment – CA Penal Code 1000
    You may be eligible for Deferred Entry of Judgment if you have never before been arrested for a drug-related crime, you have no prior felony convictions, and the offense for which you are charged is non-violent. If granted deferred entry of judgment, you must complete a treatment program and may be subject to drug testing and other possible conditions.
  • Proposition 36
    Prop 36 provides the opportunity for non-violent offenders to enter treatment programs and be placed on probation in lieu of jail time. If all conditions of treatment and probation are completed, the defendant may petition the court to dismiss the case.
    To see Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Prop 36 click here.
  • Drug Court
    Defendants charged with non-violent felonies may be eligible for drug court. This court provides alternatives to incarceration that include treatment and supervision by the court.

In addition to alcohol or drug rehabilitation programs, you may be eligible for work alternative programs, electronic monitoring, or other alternatives to incarceration.

Restitution to victims may also be part of a sentence. This means that you may need to compensate a victim for out-of-pocket losses that were related to the crime you committed.

For information about different crimes you may be charged with and to see Seth P. Chazin's practice areas click here.

For examples of victories and successes Mr. Chazin has achieved for clients, please see his victories and successes.

Seth P. Chazin represents clients in all courts throughout the Bay Area and the state of California and in Federal courts in California and throughout the United States. For any additional information please go to his profile.


“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson