FAQs

Criminal Law — Frequently Asked Questions

A: We do not have information about individual criminal cases. Contact the court in the county where your case is being heard and ask them for any information you need about your case. If you have a lawyer, you should contact your lawyer or the public defender in your county.

A: “Bail” is money or property that a defendant puts up as a promise to return for future court dates. When setting the amount of bail, the judge takes into account the seriousness of the crime, whether the defendant is a risk to the community, and whether he or she is a “flight risk” and likely to run away.

Bail can be paid:

  • In cash.
  • With a pledge of property (if the court allows it).
  • With a bail bond, which requires only a portion of the bail amount set by the judge. Usually, a professional bail bondsman is paid 10 percent of the bail amount and the bondsman then promises the court that he or she will pay the remainder of the bail if the defendant fails to appear at future court dates.

Once the bail is exonerated—meaning that the prosecutor decided not to move forward with the case and the case was dismissed, or the defendant won (was found to be not guilty), or the defendant lost and has been placed in prison or county jail—the bail bondsman must release all collateral (property) used to secure the bail. It is important to get a release of lien from the bondsman on any real estate you pledged for the bond.

If the defendant fails to appear and the bail bondsman must pay the court the full amount of the bail, anyone who cosigned or pledged collateral (property) for the bail can lose the collateral and/or be sued for the money the bail bondsman had to pay to the court. This is why it is very risky to post bail for someone, especially if you cannot be absolutely certain the defendant will come to court.

A: You may be able to recover for some of your losses. You can ask the court to order someone to pay “restitution.” There is also a State Restitution Fund for victims of violent crime.

Also contact the Victim/Witness Assistance Center in your county.

There are court forms and instructions that can help if you decide to file for an order for restitution:

A: You can ask the judge to order the defendant to fill out a Defendant’s Statement of Assets (Form CR-115). Form CR-117 has Instructions: Defendant’s Statement of Assets.

A: For California State Prison: Call the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Inmate Locator. You must have either the inmate’s CDC number or the inmate’s full name and date of birth to get information. Click to find a list of California adult correctional facilities.

For Federal Prison: You can search the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Inmate Locator database using the inmate’s first and last name or the inmate’s Register Number, DCDC Number, FBI Number, or INS Number. Or find a list of federal correctional facilities. Fill in whatever information you know (like the state or city you are looking for) and hit “submit.”

For County Jail: Call the jail. You can usually find the phone number and address for the jail by calling the county sheriff. Click to find the address and telephone numbers of the county sheriffs in California.

A: Check the California County Public Defender website.

A: The local Victim/Witness Assistance Center can help crime victims apply for compensation for losses including medical, funeral, and burial expenses; loss of income or support; and job retraining.

If you can not find a center in your county, check the white pages of your telephone book under "County Government" and look for "Victim Services" and "Victim Witness Assistance," or call toll free: 1-800-842-8467.

Clean Up Your Record — Frequently Asked Questions

A: See the Diversion and Deferred Entry of Judgment section for more information

A: Although personal use of marijuana up to 28.5 grams may be legal for adults, other marijuana related activities remain illegal, even after Proposition 64. If you were convicted of marijuana ‘possession’ or ‘unlawful transportation, importation, sale, or gift’ (under Health and Safety Code sections 11357 and 11360) you do not necessarily need to get a dismissal. These arrest and conviction records must automatically be destroyed and purged from the statewide criminal databases two years after the conviction. But, if you were in jail due to that conviction, your records will not be destroyed until two years after you are released. Because the law in this area is new, make sure you get information that is up to date.

A: Yes. Your juvenile records do appear on your criminal record. But, as of your 18th birthday, you are eligible to petition to have your juvenile records sealed. See Sealing Juvenile Records for more information

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© 2017 Judicial Council of California