Friday, February 19, 2016

The Usual Headaches Complicate Court Appearances in Catalina

I just got back from another trip to court in Catalina.  It looks like the same old headaches are still causing complications for individuals who are cited on or around the island.

The old story goes like this:

If you are cited for some illegal fishing activity (fishing without a license, in a protected zone, in possession of the more than the daily bag limit, etc.), Fish & Wildlife wardens will give you a citation that orders you to appear in court on Catalina Island "on or before" a particular date.

If you actually make the trip back to Catalina as you were ordered to do (and as you signed a written promise to do), there's a good chance that you will receive some bad news upon arrival: the court has not yet processed your citation.  You are not on calendar and nobody at the courthouse has any information about your case.  You will be told to go home and to wait for a new "Notice to Appear" to arrive by mail.  If that new notice never arrives, it is still your responsibility to maintain contact with the court and to continue checking in regularly until your matter finally appears on the calendar.  Then, of course, you can make another trip to begin the process of fighting your case.

If you miss a court date (because the new "Notice to Appear" was mailed to an old address, or to the wrong address, or because it was never mailed at all), a warrant will be issued for your arrest. You will become a "fugitive", and then your life will really get miserable.

Once your case appears on the court's calendar, then you can appear and start the process of trying to fight it.  You might decide to cut your losses and simply plead "guilty" or "no contest" at the first appearance to save yourself from making any more costly trips to and from Catalina.  If you decide not to jump on a bad offer, though, be prepared to make several more appearances. That's when "complication #2" rears its head.

If your case requires several trips back and forth to Catalina Island, you should expect the DA to "forget" your case file at least once.  When this happens, the matter will simply be continued to the court's next available date.  That means another wasted trip. Often, I get the impression that prosecutors intentionally drag their feet to make the whole process as complicated and expensive as possible for individuals to defend themselves.  I understand why many defendants are eventually pressured into accepting bad deals because they simply cannot afford to make any more day-long trips to court. The DA understands this, too, and they will use basic economics to gain whatever strategic advantage they can.

Catalina Island is a great place to spend a day, but not in court.  If you or a loved one has been cited and given a court date on Catalina Island, save yourself the expense and the hassle of making unnecessary trips.  Have a quality, local attorney handle it for you.

I appear in Catalina more frequently than any other private attorney in California.  I can make your appearances, gather evidence and negotiate with the court and the DA on your behalf to ensure that your case receives the most favorable outcome possible.  Common matters on the island involve fishing violations, but we also deal with a lot of alcohol-related offenses (drunk in public, assault, battery, domestic violence and DUI -- yes, DUI on golf carts).

Call us for a free consultation.  (714) 449-3335.  Ask for John.  Thanks for reading.

Catalina Lawyer