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California Motions for Continuance in a Criminal Case

Posted in Criminal Defense on October 28, 2020

If you or somebody you care about has been charged with a crime in California, you will undoubtedly be overwhelmed initially by the thought of going through a criminal trial. However, it is important that you have a skilled criminal defense attorney by your side. Preferably, you should contact a private criminal defense lawyer as opposed to relying on a public defender. Your attorney will understand why a continuance may be needed in your criminal defense case. They will know when a continuance is needed, and they will understand the processes of obtaining a continuance from the court.

Definition of a continuance

A continuance is a grant from the court of additional preparation time before or during a criminal trial. Both the prosecution and the defense are allowed to request a continuance for a criminal case. In some instances, the court itself can order a continuance on its own accord.

Examples of continuances in a criminal case

There are various reasons why lawyers, prosecutors, or the court would want a continuance in order to better prepare for a trial. Some of the most common reasons for continuances include the following:

  • Insufficient time to prepare in general. Both the defense and the prosecution are entitled to a reasonable amount of time to prepare their case for trial. However, what constitutes a reasonable amount of time is open to interpretation and depends on the complexity and circumstances of each case. In general, both sides need to have time to review the evidence, investigate facts, consult with witnesses, and negotiate any possible plea deal.
  • Changes to the indictment or information. If there are any new facts or crimes added to the information or indictment, the defense will typically need more time to prepare. The defense should be allowed to review any changes to the indictment in order to best prepare the case for their client.
  • Replacing council. The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to counsel. Defendants generally have a right to choose their counsel, within reason. When a defendant makes a choice to change their attorney, the court will need to consider several factors before granting a continuance to allow the new attorney to prepare.
  • Surprise evidence or witness. In general, both the defense and prosecution have all of the information necessary to make their case when the trial begins. They will usually have the same information that has been shared between two sides during the discovery process. However, new events or information previously unknown to the defense will likely warrant a continuance. This includes any new evidence or new witnesses to the case.
  • Surprise testimony. There are often times when a witness for the prosecution says something at trial they have never said before (either during depositions or in interviews with law enforcement). Witnesses can also make statements that contradict what they have said in the past. If this happens, continuances may be warranted to allow the defense to examine this surprise testimony and formulate a proper defense for their client.

What does this mean for your case?

Continuances could mean different things if you are facing criminal charges. If your attorney has requested a continuance on your behalf, this gives them and you more time to prepare your defense.

If the prosecution has requested a continuance, this could mean a few things. In some cases, this could mean that the prosecution’s case against you is not as strong as they thought, and they need more time to investigate and pursue the charges. This could also mean that they have come into new evidence that could strengthen their case against you.

Continuances are a normal part of criminal defense cases, but one thing is clear – you should have a skilled criminal defense attorney by your side to help you get through any curveballs that come your way while your case is ongoing.