A criminal action is the proceeding by which a person charged with a public offense is accused and brought to justice and punishment. A criminal action is prosecuted in the name of the people of the State of California, as a party, against the person charged with the offense.
What is a Felony?
A felony case is a criminal action in which the defendant is charged with violation of a felony. Misdemeanor or infraction violations may be included. The maximum punishment for a felony may be imprisonment in state prison or county jail, a fine, or both. In some cases, the death penalty may be imposed.
What is a Misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor case is a criminal action in which the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor and it may include an infraction charge. It does not include any felony violations. The maximum punishment for misdemeanor violations is not more than 6 months, a fine not exceeding $1,000, or both.
- Arraignment Hearing
The arraignment is the first court appearance.
A Judicial Officer informs the defendant/attorney of the following:
- Alleged charges
- Constitutional rights
A copy of the accusatory pleading is provided to the defendant/attorney. The defendant/attorney will enter a plea of:
- Not Guilty - the defendant states he/she did not commit the crime. The case will be set for a future hearing.
- Guilty - the defendant admits that he/she did commit the crime.
- No Contest - the defendant will not contest the charge. The plea has the same effect as a guilty plea except the conviction cannot be used against the defendant in a civil suit.
- Failure to Appear
If the defendant does not appear in court as required, the court may order any, or all of the following actions:
- Forfeiture of bail or bond.
- Issuance of a warrant.
- Suspension of the defendant's drivers license.
- An additional violation alleging a failure to appear. The punishment for this violation can be an additional jail term and/or a fine.
- Impose an additional $100.00 assessment pursuant to Penal Code Section 1214.1.
- Court Appearance
Misdemeanors, felonies, and warrants all require a mandatory court appearance. Extensions will not be granted. You must appear at the court on the date and time as directed on your release paper or arraignment letter.
WARNING: Failure to appear may result in a warrant for your arrest.
On your court date, check the posted court calendar for your name and the assigned courtroom. If your name is on a calendar, go directly to that courtroom. If not, report to the Criminal Clerk’s Office. Be prepared to provide identification and information on the arrest or alleged offense, including jail release paperwork, notice to appear, bail or bond receipts, or arraignment letter.
If you are currently on probation and need to appear in court you may do so at the court where you appeared for sentencing.
For courtroom appearances, the following rules are enforced:
- Shirt and shoes are required in the courtroom
- Tank tops and T-shirts are NOT allowed in the courtroom
- Food, drinks, and gum chewing are NOT allowed in the courtroom
- Weapons are NOT allowed in the courthouse
- Cell phones must be turned off
- Payment of Fines
The Court provides an Express Service Drop Box in the Room C-10 lobby for those individuals who do not want to wait in line to make a payment. For more information, please see below.
- Cash payments may only be made in person in Room C-10 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Checks, cashier checks, or money orders (payable to Marin County Superior Court) may be sent by mail or paid in person in Room C-10. Please note: When making a payment by mail, individuals must write the case number or defendant's name on the check, cashier check, or money order to ensure it is applied to the correct criminal case.
- A convenience fee will be assessed on all debit, MasterCard, Discover, Visa, and American Express credit card transactions. Credit card payments may be mailed (using the stub provided on the Courtesy Notice), paid in person in Room C-10, or by phone at (415) 444-7070 between the hours of 9:00 am and 2:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Please note that a payment by personal check will delay the DMV release of a hold on a driver’s license and/or registration for ten (10) calendar days. To ensure that the hold on a driver's license and/or registration is released within 24 hours, individuals must pay by cash, cashier check, money order, or credit or debit card.
- Court Appointed Counsel
If the defendant wants to be represented by an attorney, but cannot afford one, a request may be made for a court appointed attorney. If the court determines the defendant meets the qualifications, an attorney will be appointed.
When the court appoints a public defender (external site ), or other counsel, a determination may be made of the defendant's ability to pay fees for services. If the court determines the defendant has the ability to pay, an order will be made to pay all or part of the costs. Such an order has the same force and effect as a civil judgment.
- Expungement (Cleaning Up Your Criminal Record)
An expungement allows you to reopen your criminal case, set aside the conviction and dismiss the case. As a result, your criminal record will no longer show the conviction. However the expungement will continue to appear on your record. It is important to note that the expungement does not clear from your record the fact that you were arrested or that charges were filed. The conviction can still be used against you in future criminal proceedings and by the DMV for purposes of suspending or restricting your license. A successful expungement does not relieve you of any prohibition on the ownership or possession of firearms resulting from the conviction. The Petition for Dismissal (form CR-180) and Order for Dismissal (form CR-181) are available on the Judicial Council website by clicking here.