Everyone who has a criminal case should understand the time element involved.
All cases start with an arraignment. This is a brief court hearing where you will be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty. In some misdemeanor courts, you may be offered a plea bargain at this time. However in most instances, you will be entering a plea of not guilty and any plea bargain offer will be made at a later hearing.
Misdemeanor cases in California run on very short deadlines: They must be brought to trial within 30 days after arraignment if the defendant is in custody and 45 days if the defendant is out of custody. Most courts will set a pretrial hearing roughly halfway between the arraignment and the proposed trial date. If the case is not resolved at the pretrial hearing, then there may be a second hearing (sometimes called a trial readiness conference) shortly before the trial date.
Felony cases run on a longer timeline, averaging roughly three months. In felony cases, the defendant has a right to a speedy preliminary hearing within 10 court days after arraignment. Within that 10 court day (two week) time period, the court may set a bail hearing, and also may set a prehearing conference, also known as an early disposition hearing. This is a hearing to see if the case can be disposed of by plea bargain.
If the defendant is bound over for trial after the preliminary hearing, then the defendant must be arraigned for trial within two weeks after the preliminary hearing. Trial must be held within 60 calendar days after the defendant is arraigned for trial.
A case can take longer if there is a continuance, and if the defendant waives (gives up) his speedy trial rights, and agrees for the next hearing to take place at a specific later date. In court you may hear attorneys and judges describing a case as being “zero of ten” or “six of ten” or “eight of ten” or “zero of thirty.” This is a way of describing what the case’s new status is in the timeline. “Zero of ten” means that the last day for trial would be ten days after the zero of ten date.
For more information about specific timelines and deadlines in your case, you should talk to an experienced attorney.