Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a general legal question not addressed here, send me your question at and I will respond to your question and post the answer here.

How much does it cost for the initial consultation?

Initial consultations are no charge.  Initial consultations include discussing the facts of your case, evaluating potential defenses, determining whether I am the best attorney for you under the circumstances, developing a defense case plan, and a frank discussion of fees and costs necessary for a successful defense.  At the end of the consultation, you will be armed with a significant amount of information that you can take home, discuss with your family, and make an informed decision about whether I am the best attorney for you.

How quickly can I meet with you?

The easiest way to set an appointment is to schedule it on this web site.  Click on the “Schedule Appointment” button on the top of each page and you will be able to see the available time slots I have for appointments.  This allows you to schedule the appointment at a time convenient to you without the need to speak with anyone.  If you need an appointment immediately, call me at 530-276-0410.  I can normally meet with you on the same day you contact me.

I’m afraid if I make an appointment, I will be talked into something before I am ready to make a decision.

I promise you I will never try and talk you into anything.  In all my years as a criminal defense attorney I have never pressured a client to hire me, accept a plea deal, or take any action.  It is your case.  You make all the decisions.  I will always provide you will full disclosure of all relevant facts of any decisions that need to be made.  I will make sure you understand all the options available to you, and I will tell you what I expect the results will be for each option.  You will then make the decision on which option to pursue, and I will make every effort to get the result you choose.

Finally, if we decide a different attorney will be better able to provide you with the result you want, I will refer you to a qualified, competent attorney I have personally researched and approved.

What is your hourly rate for legal services?

My hourly rate is $250.00 per hour.  That rate is based on over twenty years’ experience in successfully representing clients in criminal defense cases, the extensive post-law school training I have attended, and the specific skills I have developed as an extremely effective criminal defense trial attorney.  See my blog post for details on how I determine fees in criminal cases at: Attorney’s Fees

Can I reach you after business hours?

Yes.  I provide clients with several methods in which to reach me after hours.  These include identifying messages on my voice mail as “urgent” which immediately notifies me personally that I have an urgent message, and access to the client portal of my web site where e-mail and case comments can be left, which also immediately notifies me personally of the message.  Any urgent messages will be returned as soon as I can get to a quiet place to call you back and deal with any issues.

Do you respond to e-mails?

Yes.  I respond to e-mails sent directly to my office account (, secure communications through my client portal, and the inquiry form on my web site.  All e-mail messages are forwarded to my cell phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  As soon as I see the message, I will respond and provide the information requested or answer any questions.

Do I have to call your secretary to get an appointment?

No.  You can set an appointment online by clicking on the “Schedule Appointment” button on the top of each page of the web site.  This takes you to a scheduling module that will show you the available dates and times for an appointment.  Once you select the time that meets your needs, the system will send a reminder email to you and to me so we are both aware of the date and time of the appointment.

What forms of payment do you take?

I accept checks, cash, travelers’ checks, and credit cards.

What is the Statute of Limitations in my case?

Under California law, the statute of limitations is the time limit in which the prosecution can bring a charge against a defendant.  Unless tolling applies, the normal limitation periods are as follows: (1) Misdemeanors–1 year; (2) Felony punishable by less than 8 years in prison–3 years; (3) Felony punishable by more 8 years or more in prison–6 years; (4) Felony punishable by death, life, or life without parole—None.  This is not an exhaustive list.  Some specific crimes have different limitation periods.  For example, specified sex offenses committed when the victim was under 18 years of age, the limitations period is any time until the victim’s 40th birthday.

What is a Marsden motion and how can a judge deny the motion?

A Marsden motion is a motion by a defendant to discharge or fire his public defender or court appointed attorney.  Marsden does not apply to privately retained attorneys.  Privately retained attorneys can be fired at any time without the need to tell the court why as long as the termination is not intended to delay the case.

If a defendant tells the court he or she wants to have a Marsden motion, the court is required to conduct an inquiry to find out why the defendant wants to discharge his or her court appointed attorney.  Unless the court finds good cause, a Marsden motion will be denied.

Unfortunately, most defendants do not understand what they must show to win a Marsden motion and most Marsden motions are denied after the inquiry by the court.

In order to win, the defendant must show one of two circumstances in the case: (1) the current attorney is not providing adequate representation or has committed ineffective assistance of counsel; or (2) the attorney-client relationship has broken down to such a point of irreconcilable conflict that ineffective representation is likely to result.

Most defendants attempt to argue ineffective assistance of counsel because the attorney has not done what the defendant wants, such as a motion to dismiss or a motion to suppress evidence.  These arguments rarely win in court because the attorney justifies his or her strategy in the case based on the evidence gathered by the prosecution, and feels the need to defend his or her professional reputation as a competent attorney.

However, when the defendant argues the attorney-client relationship has broken down to such an extent that ineffective representation is likely to result, it is more of a personality argument and many appointed attorneys will agree the relationship is so broken it is impacting their ability to do a good job.  These arguments are more likely to be granted.

When the court finds good cause for a Marsden motion, a new attorney is appointed.

Do I have a right to see the discovery in my criminal case?

Yes.  All defendants in a criminal case have a right to see the discovery in a criminal case.  However, some information must be redacted by law.  For example, the address and telephone number of witnesses and victims must be redacted from any reports provided to a defendant by his or her attorney.  In addition, there are strategic reasons to not provide copies of discovery to defendants in criminal cases.

For example, if the defendant is in custody, keeping copies of the police reports or other discovery is dangerous.  It is not uncommon for a cell mate to read a defendant’s reports then claim the defendant confessed to the cell mate in order to obtain a deal with the prosecutor in the cell mate’s case.

Don’t the police have to read Miranda rights to me like on TV?

Miranda rights, as seen on television and in movies, are rights that must be read to a person who is being questioned by law enforcement while in law enforcement custody.  Generally, these rights only apply when two circumstances exist: (1) the person is in law enforcement custody; and (2) the person is being questioned about his or her involvement in criminal activity.

If you are not in law enforcement custody, the police are not required to tell you about your Miranda rights.  For example, if the police ask you to voluntarily come to the station for an interview, tell you the room you are in is not locked, and that you can leave at any time, they are not required to tell you about your Miranda rights even if they are asking you about your involvement in criminal activity.

As a separate example, if the police are interviewing you as a witness and are not asking questions that imply or directly accuse you of criminal activity, a Miranda warning is not legally required.

Finally, if the police take you into custody but do not question you other than routine booking questions, such as your name, address, etc., a Miranda warning is not legally required.

However, in all cases in which you are being interviewed or interrogated by law enforcement, you have the right to remain silent and not answer any questions whether they give you a Miranda warning or not.  You ALWAYS have the right to remain silent; use it!

When can I appeal in a criminal case?

Generally, appeals in criminal cases occur after judgement.  Judgement is not entering a plea of guilty or no contest, and is not when a jury returns a finding of guilty.  Judgement is when the court decides and imposes punishment.

There are some limited circumstances in which a writ may be filed in an appellate court asking the appellate court to either prohibit or mandate specific action by the trial court.  Examples for a writ include: actions challenging the validity of a statute or ordinance being applied in a case; denial of a certificate of probable cause to challenge the validity of a plea or admission of a violation of probation; denial of disqualification of a judge; or denial of a motion to set aside a finding of probable cause at preliminary hearing due to lack of evidence.

What happens to a person found incompetent to stand trial?

A person is legally incompetent in a criminal case when the person, due to a mental disorder or developmental disability, is unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings, or is unable to assist his or her attorney in the conduct of the defense in a rational manner.

Once the issue of competency is raised, all criminal proceedings are suspended and experts are appointed to provide expert opinions on whether the defendant is currently competent.  If the defendant is found competent, criminal proceedings are reinstated and proceed as normal.

If the defendant if found incompetent, the criminal proceeding remain suspended until the defendant is restored to competency.  This normally results in the defendant being transferred to a state hospital for treatment which may include forced medication.

What is the difference between incompetent to stand trial and insanity?

The question of competence looks at a defendant’s mental state at the time the issue is raised.  The court must determine the defendant’s current mental state.  The question of insanity looks at the defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged crime.

The legal standard for incompetency is whether the defendant, due to a mental disorder or developmental disability, is unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings, or is unable to assist his or her attorney in the conduct of the defense in a rational manner.

The legal standard for insanity is whether the defendant, at the time of the alleged crime, was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his or her act, and of distinguishing right from wrong.

It is legally possible for a defendant to have been insane at the time of the alleged crime and be incompetent at the time of the criminal proceedings.  It is also possible for a person to have been insane at the time of the allege crime, but competent during the criminal proceedings.  Finally, it is possible to have been sane during the alleged crime, but incompetent at the time of the criminal proceedings.