Legal Dictionary


City Attorney Hearing

A City Attorney hearing is an informal proceeding that is conducted as an alternative to a misdemeanor criminal prosecution in the City of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles City Attorney's office prosecutes misdemeanor crimes committed in Los Angeles. The City Attorney hearing is not held in court before a judge or jury, but rather before a hearing officer in the City Attorney's office. The hearing officer is not a prosecutor, law enforcement officer or an attorney. The City Attorney hearing is essentially an informal meeting between the hearing officer and the defendant (accused).

The defendant may be represented by an attorney at the hearing if he or she chooses to do so. The City Attorney hearing occurs when a criminal complaint has been filed against the defendant and the City Attorney has considered resolving the matter without a formal court case. The City Attorney sends a letter to the defendant requesting his or her presence at the hearing. Failure to attend the hearing could result in the formal prosecution of the case.

City Attorney Hearings usually occur where the City Attorney has determined that misdemeanor case guidelines have not been met or where there is insufficient evidence for criminal conviction. The purpose of the hearing is to determine if it is necessary to prosecute the criminal case, and if so, to obtain additional information at the hearing that would be useful in prosecuting the case. If the hearing officer is convinced that there is an alternate settlement to the criminal case then the City Attorney can withhold prosecuting the case.

Cases referred for City Attorney Hearings are usually low-level, non-violent offenses, but recently have included cases involving domestic violence, assault and battery, trespass, vandalism, disturbing the peace, and neighborly disputes.

It is in the best interests of a defendant to have a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to assist with the hearing. A defendant is not Mirandized (read his or her rights) at the hearing so anything the defendant says at the hearing can be used against him or her in the criminal case. An experienced attorney will seize the City Attorney hearing as an opportunity to present his or her client's story in a more favorable light by preparing the client for any questions that would be asked by the hearing officer and by providing positive testimony and evidence that ultimately strengthens the client's (defendant) version of events.

The hearing could last anywhere from fifteen minutes to several hours. Witnesses for the defendant and or the alleged victim may give statements and provide evidence. Evidence presented by either side is considered by the hearing officer. At the end of the hearing, the hearing officer will recommend whether to proceed with criminal prosecution, dismiss the matter, or leave the criminal case open for one year before completely closing out the case.

A misdemeanor conviction is a serious matter. You could receive a jail sentence of up to one year and end up with a life-long criminal record. An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney familiar with this type of hearing can keep your case from being filed by preparing you and your witnesses for the hearing, determining your defenses, and gathering documents and other evidence. The ideal goal of an experienced criminal defense attorney is to avoid criminal prosecution and seek a complete dismissal of the charges.