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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 23147
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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Pulled over for no light on license plate, while driving my sisters car.Giving cop m

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Pulled over for no light on license plate, while driving my sister's car.Giving cop my license, he notices a BUTTERFLY KNIFE on the floorboard. My sisters. Immediately put into handcuffs, car searched. Was given a traffic ticket that states "possess switchblade knife, license plate light not working" The ticket states switchblade, which is illegal, not butterfly which is a misdemeanor.How can this be proven when butterfly knife was confiscated? Does it matter that the wrong word was used to describe the knife? And Notice to appear was checked.
Hello Jacustomer,

Yes, have a lawyer, because whether this is a misdemeanor charge or otherwise, you need your rights protected and your options explained to you any time you are threatened with a matter that can cost you your liberty. The realities are that you won't go to jail for this, but the statute allows for it. You have a Constitutional right to a lawyer under those circumstances. Take advantage of it.

You do not want to take advice from the police when you are a criminal defendant. You do not even want to speak to the police when you are a criminal defendant. Anything you say to them, or to anyone other than your lawyer (and that includes the judge) can be used against you. On the other hand, what your lawyer will say cannot.

As for the knife, in order to prosecute you for this offense, the DA will have to show that there is a knife. And that means that the DA will get to see the knife when the police turn over their paperwork to the DA. If the knife is not a switchblade, the DA will charge the lower level offense, regardless of what the police officer wrote on the ticket. If the DA thinks it's a switchblade, you and your lawyer will have a right to see the knife and challenge the evidence at a pre trial hearing if you want to fight the case.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok, I understand the DA,s role on which way to charge.I cannot afford a lawyer, am on a fixed income, how does one go about getting a public defender in Sonoma County, CA. If I don't fight the case, what does this as a misdemeanor mean to me.Does it stay on my record, also does my sister need to be present at time of court date, she is currently going into the National Guard, she will be leaving in the end of May, she was not in the vehicle at that time.

If you can't afford a lawyer, when you go to court and face the judge you will be arraigned on the charge. That is, the judge will read the charge against you into the record and ask you how you plead. The only plea you should make at that time is NOT GUILTY. It's the only one that keeps your rights open. You can always take back a not guilty plea if you get something in exchange for it you want -- like a deal that keeps this off of your record. But you can almost never get a guilty or nolo plea back once you've made it.

Once you've pled not guilty you can tell the judge that you are on a fixed income and lack the means of paying for a lawyer. Ask him to appoint you free counsel. If he agrees that you are indigent he will do so.

Yes, a misdemeanor is a crime and as such would stay on your record until/unless you could expunge that. As your sister is not charged with an offense, she has no need to come to court. If she admits in court that the knife was hers, she could potentially be charged and convicted for the offense. That would present a problem for her with the military.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Pleased to have helped!

Good luck!
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
sorry i have one more question. When i appear in court does it matter if the police officer is present, if he is not is this offence expunged and dismissed?

No the police officer will not have to show up. This is not a traffic offense where if the police officer fails to show the case gets pitched.

This is a criminal offense. The officer will have turned everything over to the DA by the time you appear in court. And you wouldn't actually get to confront him unless you wanted to go to trial on the case. That could be a very long way off.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
how would i be able to expunge this offence?
California makes it pretty easy to apply for a dismissal. (They actually just set the conviction aside, and it is NOT a true expungement). You can do it yourself. It's free, and the state provides a how to guide and all necessary forms.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
is it possible to talk to a public defender pre court date?

You might be able to walk in and get some general assistance, but you cannot get actual representation from a public defender's office until the judge appoints one to your case. They have to be assigned their cases by the court. They cannot be retained in advance.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
okay then we are all done i would like to once again thank you for your help and advice

THANK YOU VERY MUCH and have a great night
You too!
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