Frequently Asked Questions

  • Criminal Defense
  • What does it mean to be charged with a crime?

    In California, the term "charged" with a crime refers to the government formally filing papers with the court accusing a person with breaking the law.

  • What does "press charges" mean?

    People often use the phrase "press charges" when referring to a victim asking the government to charge another person. However, victims don't control whether or not someone gets charged. The prosecutor may factor in what the victim wants but doesn't have to. Nobody in California can charge someone with a crime other than the government. Usually, this means the district attorney.

  • What is an arraignment?

    The arraignment is the defendant’s first appearance in court. At arraignment:

    • The judge tells the defendant what the charges are.
    • The defendant is advised or his or her Constitutional rights, including the right to be represented by an attorney, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to a speedy trial.
    • The judge tells the defendant that he will have the public defender represent the defendant if the defendant does not have the money to hire a lawyer.
    • The defendant enters an initial plea to the charges, i.e. not guilty, no contest, or guilty.
    • The judge sets the bail or sets a formal bail hearing.

  • What happens after the arraignment?

    The prosecution will share the information that they are going to use to prove the charges against the defendant. This is called “discovery.” This may include the police reports, witness statements, and other evidence the police and prosecutors have gathered.

    The prosecutors and the defense may also discuss how the case can be resolved without a trial. In a felony case, if the two sides cannot agree on a resolution, a preliminary hearing will be scheduled.

  • What is a preliminary hearing?

    A preliminary hearing is a proceeding held before trial in felony cases. The purpose is for the court to determine if there is enough evidence to hold the defendant to go to trial. Essentially, the prosecutor has to show evidence that would lead give a reasonable person a strong suspicion that the defendant is guilty of the charged crimes. The standard is much lower at a preliminary hearing than at trial.

    The standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” does not apply at a preliminary hearing. Although the burden is not high, the preliminary hearing is a critical stage of the proceedings.

  • What is trial?

    Everyone accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent until a jury convicts them. In misdemeanor and felony cases, defendants have a right to have a jury of their peers decide the case. The prosecutor has to convince a jury that the defendant is guilty of the charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The jury gets to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not. The proceeding where the prosecutor presents evidence and the jury decides whether the defendant is guilty is called trial.

  • Bail
  • What is a bail bond?

    Most people don’t have quick access to the funds to post the entire amount of bail. A bail bond is a process where someone pays a company to post the full amount on their behalf. For instance, if a defendant’s bail is set at $100,000, a defendant (or family) can pay a bondsmen to post the $100,000 on his behalf.


    The bondsmen can charge a maximum of a 10% fee to post the bail. So, if the bail is $100,000, the bondsmen can charge up to $10,000. The bondsmen may charge less or make arrangements with the defendant or his family to take payments. Bondsmen often offer a discount to defendants who retain private attorneys.

  • How much is bail going to be?

    When someone is arrested an initial bail is often set at the jail. Ultimately, the court will decide on how much the bail is. In setting bail, the court considers the charges, the facts of the case, the defendants prior criminal history, and the defendant’s flight risk. Bail varies in every case because of the specific factors. Bail also varies greatly between counties.


    Each county has a guideline amount of bail for every charge outlined in what is called a bail schedule. This is advisory for the court and the court may go below or above the scheduled amount.

  • Can the amount of bail change?

    Yes. Bail can change from the amount set at the jail when the defendant is arrested. It can change at the defendant’s arraignment or when there is any change of circumstances in the case. For instance, it can change if charges are added or dropped. The defendant’s attorney can also request a bail review hearing to ask the court to change the amount of bail.

  • What is a 1275 hold?

    Sometimes the prosecutor will place a “hold” on the defendant preventing him from posting bail. This is called a 1275 hold. This means that the prosecutor is concerned that the money the defendant will sue to post bail was obtained by committing a felony. Often, this means that the prosecution is concerned that drug money may be used to post bail.


    The defendant’s attorney can request a bail review hearing in order to show that the money used for bail was legally obtained.

  • What is bail?

    Bail is money that you give to the court to ensure that you will appear back in court when you are supposed to. This is called posting. If the defendant posts bail and fails to appear in court, the court will “forfeit” the bail and not return any of it.

  • Personal Injury
  • I got in a car accident, do I need a lawyer?

    If you are in a car accident that wasn't your fault, you have rights to protect. These rights include holding the person accountable for the damage to your car and for your injuries. The lawyers at the Virga Law Firm protect these rights. It doesn't cost anything to meet with us, discuss your case, and decide whether a lawyer is appropriate for you.

  • How much will I have to pay an accident attorney?

    The lawyers at the Virga Law Firm will meet with you and discuss your case for free. If you hire us to represent you, you won't pay anything until we recover money from the person that hurt you. If we don't recover money, there will be no fees.

  • DUI
  • I’ve been arrested for DUI, what should I expect now?

    A DUI arrest triggers two separate processes. First, the DMV begins an administrative action to suspend your license. You have 10 days to request a hearing to fight to keep your license. Second, the district attorney will file criminal DUI charges against you. When you are released from jail, you will be given a date and time to appear in court.

  • Can I still get a DUI if I’m below the legal limit?

    Yes. A person can be convicted of DUI with blood alcohol below the limit if the prosecutor can show that you were impaired to the point of not being able to drive as safely as a sober person.

  • How long is your license suspended for a DUI?

    For a typical first DUI, the DMV will suspend your driving privilege for one month.  After a month, you can apply for a restricted license that allows you to drive to and from work.

  • Is driving while high a DUI?

    Yes. All 50 states have laws against driving under the influence of drugs.  The law is Penal Code section 23152(e).  Unlike with alcohol, there is no blood level in the law that creates a presumption dictating when a person is under the influence.

  • What time of night do most drunk driving accidents occur?

    Most alcohol related accidents occur at night between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2011 was 4.5 times higher at night than during the day (36% versus 8%). Source: NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts 2011 Data.

  • How much is a DUI fine in California?

    The combined cost of fines and penalties for a first DUI average about $1,500 and depend on the county.

  • How much are DUI classes in California?

    DUI classes are roughly $675 for 3 months of classes, $860 for 6 months of classes, and $1,140 for 9 months of classes. Multiple offender classes are 18 months and can cost $1,700. It depends on the county.

  • How long are DUI Classes?

    DUI classes can run 3, 6, 9, or 12 months for first offenders.  For multiple offenders, the classes may be 18 or 30 months.

  • Where can I find DUI classes?

    DUI classes in California must be licensed by the Department of Healthcare Services. A complete list of licensed DUI programs can be found here.

  • What is the legal limit for alcohol in California?
    • In California, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher if you are 21 years or older. Vehicle Code section 23152(b).
    • If you are under 21 years old, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol of 0.01%. The penalties may vary if the blood alcohol level is between 0.01%-0.04%, 0.05%-0.07%, or 0.08% and higher.
    • It is illegal for commercial license holders (Class A, Class B, or Class C with an endorsement) from operating a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.04% or higher. Vehicle Code section 23152(d).
  • What is the phone number for DMV the office that handles DUIs?

    It depends on where you were arrested. You can call the office listed below that is closest to where you were arrested.

    Bakersfield (661) 833-2103
    City of Commerce (323) 724-4000
    City of Orange (714) 703-2511
    Covina (626) 974-7137
    El Segundo (310) 615-3500
    Fresno (559) 445-6399
    Oakland (510) 563-8900
    Oxnard (805) 988-3050
    Redding (530) 224-4755
    Sacramento (916) 227-2970
    San Bernardino (909) 383-7413
    San Diego (858) 627-3901
    San Francisco (415) 557-1170
    San Jose (408) 229-7100
    Stockton (209) 948-7715
    Van Nuys (818) 376-4217
  • How much time will I go into custody for a DUI?

    For your first DUI you will probably not do in-custody time. For a 2nd DUI, the minimum is 4 days in custody. For a 3rd DUI, the minimum is 6 days in custody. The maximum time in custody depends on the county and the facts of your case.

  • How long is my temporary license valid?

    If you have contested the DMV action, your temporary license is valid pending the outcome of your DMV hearing. Once DMV issues a decision, the decision letter will include a day your suspension begins.

  • Can I drive during my 30 day suspension?

    No. Your license is totally suspended during the 30 days. It is not a restricted license.

  • I'm under 21, how long will I lose my license?

    Generally, those under 21 will lose their license for 1 year after a DUI conviction. However, if you have a critical need, DMV allows you to apply for your license during that year. See the critical need form here.

  • I have a Class A license, how long will I lose my license?

    People with commercial licenses will lose their license for 1 year after being convicted with a DUI. A second DUI will result in a lifetime revocation of a person's commercial license. This is true even if the person was not driving the commercial vehicle at the time of the arrest.

  • How are DUIs handled for people under 18?

    DUIs are handled very differently for people under 18. They are prosecuted through the juvenile court and the consequences are not as standardized as with adult DUIs.