The difference between a civil and a criminal case is that only the state of California can prosecute you for a criminal case. A civil case is the result of one citizen bringing charges against another citizen.
For a criminal case to proceed in California there needs to be a police report documenting the circumstances of the crime that has allegedly been committed by the California citizen. As a result of that report, you could be charged with an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony. An infraction is the least serious and you’ll probably just have to pay a fine. If there is a misdemeanor or felony complaint, the California law enforcement officers must get a warrant from a judge to arrest the person who committed the crime. If a felony complaint is filed and the judge finds there is probable cause, a warrant will be issued and bond will be set. If there is some kind of mistake, the warrant and charges could end up being dismissed.
After the suspect is arrested, a preliminary hearing will be held. The defendant will be bound over for trial and then the felony information contained in the police report will be filed. This information could also be the result of other investigative work conducted by California police. Then the arraignment happens, where the defendant will enter a plea. The plea could be guilty, not guilty, or innocent. After the arraignment, the lawyer takes over and defends the case. It’s very important to have a lawyer because if you don’t, you have to do all of the legal research by yourself and no one is allowed to help you with it. Lawyers in California will know the ins and outs of California law and be able to defend you competently.
If the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, it’s all over. The judge will enter a judgment and order a sentence. For a felony in California, the sentence could be many years in prison. But if the defendant enters a plea of not guilty or innocent, then the discovery happens, where the parties exchange information.
Finally, the trial happens. The defendant decides whether it will be by judge or jury. You have a right to a jury of your peers who are not biased against you because of media coverage. At the end of the trial, the judge or jury enters a judgment based on the facts of the case, and the judge imposes a sentence.