Penal Code 1050 PC | Motion for Continuance

Penal Code 1050 PC | Motion for Continuance

Getting charged with a crime can be an incredibly stressful and confusing time. You may feel overwhelmed navigating the complex legal system and unsure of your rights. One important tool that can help is something called a “motion for continuance” under Penal Code 1050 PC.

A motion for continuance allows you to request that the court postpone or delay certain deadlines or hearings in your case. This gives you more time to prepare your defense strategy with your attorney. Having enough time is crucial to building the strongest case possible.

What is a Motion for Continuance?

A motion for continuance is a request made by either the prosecution or the defense to reschedule or postpone a criminal hearing or trial. It allows either side some breathing room when they need more time before proceeding.

For example, your attorney may file a motion for continuance if:

  • They need more time to prepare for trial or a pretrial hearing
  • They are waiting on evidence or documents from the prosecution through the discovery process
  • A witness suddenly becomes unavailable and they need to reschedule their testimony
  • You or your attorney has a scheduling conflict on the date of the hearing or trial

The most common reasons have to do with needing more time to build a defense and gather evidence. But there are many situations where a short delay could help your case.

Penal Code 1050 PC

In California, motions for continuance are governed by Penal Code Section 1050 PC. This law sets out the rules and procedures for requesting a delay in criminal proceedings.

It states that all continuances can only be granted upon a showing of “good cause.” The party requesting the continuance has the burden of proving there is a compelling reason for the delay.

Some examples of good cause under PC 1050 include:

  • Illness or unavailability of counsel or a party
  • A necessary witness is unable to attend
  • A plea negotiation is underway and more time is needed
  • New evidence has come to light

The court has a lot of discretion in weighing whether good cause exists. But in general, delays are frowned upon unless absolutely necessary. So your attorney will need to make a compelling argument when filing the motion.

How to Request a Continuance

To request a continuance, your defense attorney will need to file a formal motion with the court. There are specific procedures and deadlines that must be followed. Here are some tips on how it works:

  • The motion must be made in writing and filed with the court clerk. It cannot be made verbally.
  • It should be filed at least 2 court days before the hearing or trial date, unless there are emergency circumstances.
  • The motion must state the original date and the amount of time requested for the continuance.
  • It should clearly explain the reasons for requesting the delay and provide supporting facts.
  • Any evidence or declarations supporting the reasons for delay should be attached.
  • A proposed order for the judge to sign should be included.
  • The district attorney must be properly served with a copy of the motion.

Additionally, your attorney may need to appear in court to argue the motion before the judge. Each county may have specific local rules, so your attorney will need to follow the procedures for your specific courthouse.

How the Judge Decides

The judge has a lot of discretion when ruling on a motion for continuance. They will consider factors like:

  • Whether good cause for a delay has been proven
  • How long of a delay is being requested
  • Whether either side would be unfairly prejudiced
  • Whether previous continuances have been granted
  • The seriousness of the charges
  • Whether the defendant is in custody
  • How long the case has been pending already

The judge must balance the rights of the defendant to prepare a defense with the public interest in a speedy trial. They don’t have to grant the entire length of delay requested and may order a shorter continuance.

How Often Can a Continuance be Requested?

While there is no hard limit in the law, judges prefer that cases move along efficiently. Continuances should not be requested frivolously or repeatedly just to delay things.

That said, an experienced criminal defense lawyer knows when a continuance is truly needed to benefit the client. Strategic use of continuances at key moments can bolster the defense. For example, requesting more time to locate a favorable witness or get an expert report analyzed.

As long as there is good cause, your attorney can request reasonable delays. It’s a tool that should be used judiciously but can make a big difference in the outcome when used effectively.

Can a Continuance be Denied?

Yes, the judge can deny a motion for continuance after considering the arguments made. Reasons for denial may include:

  • The reasons given do not establish good cause under the law
  • The length of delay requested is unreasonable
  • Previous continuances have already been granted
  • The request comes too close to the hearing date

If denied, your attorney will have to proceed with the case as originally scheduled. Having an experienced lawyer who can argue persuasively will give you the best chance of success. But there are no guarantees and you should be prepared in case the motion is denied.

Waiving Time Limits

One related concept is “waiving time” for preliminary hearings and trials. This means you agree to give up your right to have the hearing or trial within the normal legal deadline.

For example, normally a felony defendant has a right to a preliminary hearing within 10 court days of entering a not guilty plea. But you can “waive time” and agree to extend this deadline if more time is needed. Your attorney may file a written time waiver along with the continuance motion.

Strategic Use of Continuances

Skillfully using continuances and time waivers is an art in criminal defense. An experienced attorney knows how to strategically request delays and waivers to benefit their client.

For example, a continuance could allow time to:

  • Conduct an investigation to dig up witnesses and evidence
  • Obtain an independent forensic or expert analysis
  • Work with prosecutors towards a plea bargain or pretrial diversion
  • File suppression motions to exclude evidence
  • Locate missing witnesses and get their testimony

The key is having a lawyer who thoroughly understands your case and can identify the pivotal moments where an extra few weeks could change the trajectory.

Contact a Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, don’t go it alone. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference. They will know when and how to file a motion for continuance in your case.

Every case has unique needs. Take advantage of a free consultation with a defense attorney to discuss the best legal strategies for your situation. This includes making strategic decisions about requesting necessary delays through motions for continuance when it could benefit your defense. With an attorney guiding you, you can feel empowered to navigate the legal process.