What Does “Status Conference” Mean in a California Criminal Case?
When you are charged with a crime in Los Angeles, it sets the criminal legal process in motion. One of the things you can expect is that your case will have many hearings and conferences. Each hearing or conference has its own significance.
One of these conferences is called a “Status Conference.” Below, we will explain what a Status Conference is and what you can expect at a Status Conference in Los Angeles.
What is a Status Conference?
Generally speaking, a Status Conference in a criminal case is a meeting between the prosecutor and the defense attorney (your attorney) to discuss the status of the case, exchange information, and potentially negotiate a plea deal. Sometimes the judge will be involved in the Status Conference.
What Happens at a Status Conference?
If you are charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor in Los Angeles, you will likely be required to attend a Status Conference or something similar. In a misdemeanor case, the Status Conference will likely be called a Trial Readiness Conference. You, your lawyer, and the prosecutor must be present for the Trial Readiness Conference.
At the Trial Readiness Conference, the prosecutor will provide you and your lawyer with information that they intend to use to prove your guilt, also known as “discovery.” It is also possible that your attorney and the prosecutor may talk about, or negotiate, a plea deal. If the lawyers are unable to negotiate a plea deal, the judge may ask whether the case is ready for a trial. Courts can set multiple Trial Readiness Conferences during your case in order to determine its status and to make sure it is moving toward some sort of resolution.
If you are charged with a felony in Los Angeles, you may be required to attend a Felony Settlement Conference. A Felony Settlement Conference is much like a Trial Readiness Conference, but it happens before the preliminary hearing. Other than that, a Felony Settlement Conference is just like a Trial Readiness Conference (i.e., the lawyers exchange information, talk about resolving your case, and let the judge know whether your case is ready for trial).
The court may also deal with any pre-trial motions before the Trial Readiness Conference. This means that the court may consider motions made for such things like suppression of evidence or probable cause issues.
When Does a Status Conference Happen?
Status Conferences will happen throughout your trial. This is so the court can stay updated on the status of your case. However, the court may set a Trial Readiness Conference within 1 to 14 days before a felony trial.
Who Must be at a Status Conference?
For Status Conferences addressing minor issues, it may be possible that your lawyer waives your appearance, and only your lawyer, the prosecutor, and the judge are present. However, you, your lawyer, and the prosecutor must be present for a Trial Readiness Conference or a Felony Settlement Conference.
Additionally, the court may allow you to appear on the telephone for certain Status Conferences.
Can your Case be Resolved at the Status Conference?
It is possible for some cases to be resolved at the Status Conference through a plea deal. In fact, one of the reasons for having Status Conferences, Trial Readiness Conferences, and Felony Settlement Conferences is to try to resolve cases before a trial. However, having your case resolved at the Status Conference depends on multiple things.
First, it will depend on the discovery provided by the prosecutor. If your lawyer does not have enough information to be able to decide whether the prosecutor’s plea is reasonable, or the discovery shows that you may have a valid defense to the charges, you may not resolve the case before a trial. Second, it will depend on the plea made by the prosecutor.
If the plea deal is favorable to you, your lawyer may suggest that you take the plea deal. If, however, the plea deal is not good for you, your case may not be resolved. Finally, it will depend on you. If you want to resolve the case by taking a plea deal at a Status Conference and avoid a trial, you can speak with your lawyer about doing that. If, on the other hand, you want to go to trial, the case will not resolve at a Status Conference and will likely be set to a trial (you should talk to your lawyer about taking a case to trial).
As stated above, there may be multiple Status Conferences set during your case. So, if you are not ready to take a plea deal at one Status Conference, it is possible that you take the same plea deal at another, later Status Conference.
It is also possible that the plea deal changes because new information is discovered by the prosecutor or your lawyer, or that your lawyer continues to negotiate on your behalf for a better plea deal. If you cannot reach a plea deal, however, your case may be set to a trial.
How do I Prepare For a Status Conference?
It is important to remember that a Status Conference is not a trial. Neither your lawyer nor the prosecutor will present witnesses or evidence to the judge or a jury. You will not testify. You will not need to worry about all of that. Instead, the Status Conference is an opportunity for you, the lawyers, and the court to keep the case moving toward a resolution.
The best way for you to prepare is to be present or to make sure you are in contact with your lawyer. Your lawyer may have many questions for you about the discovery or evidence provided by the prosecutor. Your lawyer may also have questions for you about the plea deal offered by the prosecutor and whether you may want to take the plea deal or go to trial. Similarly, you may have many questions for your lawyer about the status of your case, how to resolve your case, and what comes next. However, you cannot remain updated if you do not appear at the Status Conference or remain in contact with your lawyer.
Contact a Lawyer for Help Defending Your Criminal Charges
You should also be ready to work with your lawyer to find information that may help your lawyer as they negotiate a plea deal or as they head toward trial. You may have additional evidence or witnesses that provide a defense to the charges or shows that you are innocent. Having this information, or being willing to locate this information between Status Conferences, may greatly help you in your case.
Finally, you should be prepared to really consider resolving your case through a plea deal. If your lawyer is suggesting that you take the prosecutor’s plea deal or if you want to take the plea deal, you should be ready to have a real conversation with your lawyer about what that means for you. If you are going to take the plea deal, you should also prepare your affairs so that there are no additional negative consequences (i.e., loss of employment, childcare, etc.).