California law can be confusing to those who have not studied it. There is a specific pretrial process in California. The pretrial process is the phase of California court proceedings where a majority of cases are resolved. Pretrial proceedings include all court appearances before the trial commences, “discovery” issues where relevant evidence is exchanged, plea bargains and negotiations, and motions made by the defense. Motions are a request made to the judge to take a specific action. Here are some helpful facts regarding pretrial motions that can be used by skilled criminal defense lawyers to either weaken the case against the defendant, or have it dismissed altogether.
A California Pitchess motion is a request made by the defendant's lawyer to have access to examine a police officer's personnel file in order to look into any previous complaints of excessive force, brutality, bias, or any other inappropriate or violent misconduct. The Pitchess motion is used quite frequently in California.
If the judge approves and grants the motion, former complainants against the officer in question may be called to the witness stand. This can definitely play in the defendant's favor, as the witnesses can be helpful in tainting the officer's credibility to uphold the law properly. More often than not, if the prosecution becomes aware that an officer has damaging information or insistences against him, the charges against the defendant are generally reduced or dismissed.
Penal Code 995 PC
Penal Code 995 PC is a motion to set aside the information, meaning a criminal defense attorney will request that the judge dismisses one or more of the charges against the defendant.
A trial court judge will only grant this motion when it seems that the judge had incorrectly held the defendant to answer for the charges in the preliminary hearing. If the preliminary hearing judge found reasonable or probable cause incorrectly, the 995 motion can be granted, and pertinent count(s) will be set aside.
California Penal Code 1538.5 Motions
The 1538.5 motion will be filed by a defense attorney if it appears that the defendant's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated by the police. This motion to suppress evidence is basically a request that the judge exclude any and all evidence which was illegally obtained by officers. If the illegal evidence is suppressed, this is known as the “exclusionary rule”. Similar to the Pitchess motion, if the defense lawyer is successful is passing the motion, the case against the defendant is often weakened or even dismissed.