San Diego Criminal Attorney
Where experience meets hard work
Trial Attorney Todd Melnik
Todd Melnik goes the extra mile for his clients in criminal defense cases that require in depth investigation and analysis. He has the special distinction of saving a completely innocent man from Death Row who was wrongly fingered by an eyewitness and falsely charged with special circumstances homicide for allegedly executing a witness in another murder case.
To make his case, Mr. Melnik out-investigated several seasoned LAPD homicide detectives (again) with diligent fact finding through a unique investigation process involving the use of subpoenas, court orders and 21st century technology.
During the court presentation, with all the drama reminiscent of Perry Mason, Mr. Melnik was able to clear his client of all charges. His victory, and unbelievable persistence to find evidence to clear his client was reported around the world in over 50 countries. His win stunned a seasoned prosecutor who by her own admission, had never lost a murder case until she went up against Mr. Melnik.
After the case, Mr. Melnik discussed his experiences with United States Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who expressed his admiration to Mr. Melnik for his efforts to free an innocent man, and acknowledged the difficulties of defending persons wrongly identified by eyewitnesses.
Mr. Melnik has appeared on numerous television and radio programs as a paid legal analyst and guest speaker for numerous high profile cases. You may have seen him on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CBS Evening News, ABC News, CNN, MSNBC, Court TV, Celebrity Justice, Hard Copy, KCBS, KABC, FOX, and KTLA.
Watch Todd Melnik Featured in the Documentary Long Shot Below
David Ruyle Attorney of Counsel
Mr. Ruyle has been an attorney since 2004. In addition to being a criminal defense attorney he was a sworn police officer, while an attorney, giving him first hand experience into criminal investigations, search and seizure and arrest procedures. He has maintained his edge by staying active in his community as an adjunct professor for degrees in criminal justice.
It is imperative that each client has the opportunity to have their story heard and understood. He understands that life is not always as simple and that everyone makes mistakes that shouldn’t always follow them for the rest of their life.
He believes that if a client retains any attorney that he or she should feel the burden and fear of prosecution and having to go to court should be lifted with his trust of representation. One of the ways to ease the fear is he is easily accessible to all of his clients. He makes every effort to answer any questions.
He maintains a loyal and reliable team of investigators and staff to provide a quality representation that a client deserves. He focuses his practice in San Diego county allowing him to become familiar with the local procedures, prosecutors, and judges.
San Diego may be a large city but it feels like a small town, which is why working with clients with discretion and confidentiality is of the utmost importance. He has not only helped his clients in the courtroom but aided them finding assistance in correcting any problematic and reoccurring behavioral patterns by finding drug, alcohol or psychological counseling if requested. The effect of this additional intervention has resulted in reduced recidivism.
Communication between attorney and the client is of the utmost importance. He will always give you a fair and honest opinion of your case without promising any results. He makes every effort to clearly explain what is at stake with pending charges and terms of probation.
This bears repeating: we are NOT a “mill”
One of the most common traps for clients seeking criminal defense representation are “law mills.” As the name suggests, these are firms that retain clients aggressively, but do not work the cases with that same aggression. This is truly an epidemic in busy judicial counties, where firms will retain clients, only to hire “appearances lawyers” to do all the work. In severe cases, some firms will retain clients only to delegate the ENTIRE CASE to some unknown attorney!
Here at SDCA, we reject this unethical practice known as the “law mill.” Instead, we invested significant time and energy to put together a team of trustworthy attorneys to handle our caseload. We handle all of our cases personally and internally!!! You can click on the “meet the team” tab on our homepage right now, and see our entire team. You can rest assured that only attorneys listed on that page will ever touch your file. This is a promise from us to you.
Not just a typical 9 to 5 criminal defense law firm
At SDCA, we don’t just claim to care about your case. We show you our dedication through our action. Unlike other firms where attorneys work 9 to 5, our attorneys are available 24-7 to clients. Each client will have our attorneys’ personal cellphone number and private email address, and our attorneys will be available at all times to help you with your case. We understand that clients may run into issues outside of the typical 9 to 5, and we strive to accommodate clients at all times.
We are confident that our demonstrated dedication is unmatched. So much so, that we would tell you this: if you can find another firm with 30 years of experience willing to work 24-7, then hire them! You won’t, because our commitment is truly one-of-a-kind.
A history in criminal defense litigation built on integrity, zeal, and success
For nearly 30 years, Todd Melnik have represented individuals facing criminal charges. From simple misdemeanors to serious felonies, from solo defendants to complex white collar multi-defendant cases, we have provided the highest caliber of criminal defense representation to our clients in San Diego. Over the course of nearly 30 years, we have earned the respect and trust of judges, prosecutors, and other legal professionals.
Our reputation starts with our integrity; we litigate all of our cases with professionalism. That is, we will be courteous, but firm. We will negotiate faithfully, but never back down against our clients’ interest. Our integrity is a key element of our success: other criminal justice professionals in San Diego have come to recognize us for our professionalism and zeal. They know that we mean business every time we step into court.
A common mistake other firms make is that they value professionalism and efficiency over a zealous defense. This may be because they don’t want to irritate the prosecutor or the judge, or perhaps because they simply don’t want to dedicate the time and energy to zealously defend a case. While these attorneys are courteous and friendly, they actually are often ineffective. Think about it this way: if prosecutors and judges know they can push you around, why would they negotiate earnestly?
We understand this phenomenon, which is why we strive to combine professionalism with unrelenting zeal. This way, opposing parties come to not only like us, but in fact RESPECT us. We will be professional, but our professionalism will NEVER come at the cost of our clients’ interest.
Our perspective and understanding of the these dueling interests is the foundation to our success. A success demonstrated over the course of nearly 30 years. A success illustrated in our 98.77% client satisfaction rating.
Not just legal professionals, but “your criminal defense lawyer”
Here at SDCA, we understand the tremendous stress, confusion, and helplessness our clients feel. Indeed, facing criminal charges can be one of the most terrifying and unnerving experiences in your life. That is why we offer a free of charge, in-person consultation, 7 days a week. We will take the time to meet our clients, answer any questions, and make sure that your questions are answered. We do all of this BEFORE you hire us, because we are confident that our dedication will win you over.
If and when we accept your case, we will make a point to keep you updated about your case. Our attorneys will regularly contact you to keep you updated about your case. Further, as stated earlier, you’ll have our attorneys’ personal contact information, so you will never be left wondering: “what is happening with my case?”
We at SDCA understand the value of communication. That is why we are happy to talk to you, your family, your significant other, and/or other loved ones. Our goal is to help you handle all aspects of the legal work, so you can focus on living your life. We will answer any and all questions, as well as address any concerns you may have. This way, clients feel truly comfortable and confident.
Our intake process
Navigating the vast sea that is the criminal justice system can be overwhelming. At The San Diego Criminal Attorney our highly trained staff of attorneys and administrators will go through what’s called the initial consultation stage. This is your opportunity to sit down and have us thoroughly evaluate your case and to ask questions. This is also the time the attorneys evaluate each individual’s case in determining what their exposure is.
Each criminal case can effect each person differently with regards to such things as their job, security clearance, school applications, background checks, live-scans, possessing firearms, and professional licensing. It is very important to understand what each individual clients needs and goals are before determining if we can accept their case. This is why our law firm takes the time to individually sit down with each client to offer them a free consultation in order to give them direction, and a strategy that will help to achieve the best possible outcome.
During the initial consultation it is also a time for the attorneys to begin giving you initial legal advice as to how they would like the client to proceed from day one. Often times we give our clients a step-by-step program that we want them to follow while their case is going through the court. This is why we feel that having in in the initial consultation in front of an attorney is the only way to clearly communicate your questions and concerns. We discourage anybody from discussing their case over the telephone, or by meeting someone at a coffee shop or restaurant. We want you to come into our office and meet the people and take the time to get to learn about us as much as we want to learn about you.
Asking the tough questions before you hire a criminal attorney
Choosing the right attorney to represent must take care and careful research because this is the person who will be representing your future in the courtroom. Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions. Ask the attorney how many cases he or she has done. Ask the attorney how many years of experience they have, and how many years of experience have been dedicated to their particular area of law. Ask them how many jury trials they have. Ask them how long they’ve been practicing in San Diego. Ask the attorney what their AVVO rating is. Study the reviews online and read what other clients have to say about their services and experiences with their law firm. Will they take the time to actually learn about who you are as a person and the details surrounding your case or do they just want to talk to you over the phone. Review them through the State Bar Website to view any disciplinary actions. These questions are often times never asked during the consultation.
It is important to understand that the only area of law that San Diego Criminal Attorney practices is criminal defense. We do not handle civil cases, bankruptcies, or personal injury we focus only on criminal defense. Hiring an attorney for your case is the first step, however hiring the right attorney is the final step. With more than 29 years of experience Chief Trial attorney Todd Melnik is one of the most experienced attorneys in San Diego. Also it goes without saying that you are not hiring just an attorney. We are a law firm. We utilize the resources of our associate of counsel attorneys, legal assistant, and the best private investigator in the state of California. Together as a team we will put all the firm’s resources together in accomplishing the absolute best result possible for each client. We are client trusted and trial tested.
You’ve been arrested, what happens next?
Here at the San Diego Criminal Attorney, we understand that it is both frightening, and confusing, when you hear, and feel, the handcuffs close around your wrists. It is natural to wonder, “What happens next?” From this point forward, every single thing you do, and say, could have a far reaching impact on the outcome of your case. It is for this reason that is essential to get in contact with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys before you do, or say, anything else. Every stage of the process you are now involved in presents an opportunity for your attorney to advocate for you, to expose the flaws in the District Attorney’s case against you, to ensure that your Constitutional rights are respected, and much more. The difference between a skilled attorney from SDCA, and a run-of-the-mill attorney from elsewhere could very-well-be the difference between an acquittal and a guilty verdict.
While there is much more to the legal process than this post will cover, this post will familiarize you with the 1) The Arraignment Process, 2) Preliminary Hearing Process; and 3) Felony Sentencing. Having competent, diligent, and effective assistance from an attorney throughout the entire ordeal is an essential component of obtaining a favorable outcome. It is important to note that the process varies depending on the nature of the charge(s) against you: felony, misdemeanor, or domestic violence.
The “criminal complaint”
Once arrested, the District Attorney (or in some cases the City Attorney) must decide whether to pursue formal criminal charges against you. The District Attorney accomplishes this by issuing a “Complaint”i , which formally details the nature of the charges against you. Contrary to popular belief, the District Attorney does not want to pursue every person who has been arrested; they want to pursue people where the facts suggest that the individual actually committed the crime they were arrested for. This decision is usually based on the information the District Attorney received from the police officers who arrested you. Police officers don’t usually include information that would lead the District Attorney to believe that you are not the person they are looking for or more importantly specific facts that may incline them to reject the complaint. Having competent, and diligent, representation from the moment you are arrested will allow your SDCA attorney to meet with the District Attorney before a Complaint is issued, and allow the District Attorney to see the facts, and arguments, that show you didn’t do what you are accused of; stopping the process before any further action takes place. This is one of many examples of why it is necessary to have competent counsel through all phases of this ordeal. If however, the District Attorney files the “Complaint”, then you will be entitled to an arraignment.
The criminal arraignment process
The arraignment process is formal hearings where you are told what the charges against you are, bail will be set, and you are provided an opportunity to plead “guilty”, or “not guilty.”ii While this is not the time to argue you case, having an attorney at this point can have far reaching benefits – beyond protecting your Constitutional rights. The time between the filing of the “Complaint” and the arraignment depends on whether or not you are still in custody at the time the “Complaint” is issued. If you are in custody when the “Complaint” is issued, your arraignment must occur without unnecessary delay, this means no later than 48 hours after your arrest.iii If you are not in custody when the “Complaint” is issued, the term “unnecessary delay” is less clearly defined. Having an experienced attorney from SDCA involved in this process can prove beneficial to you in many ways.
There are consequences for failing to provide an arraignment in a timely fashion. A skilled attorney can identify the failure, and enforce the rules associated with that failure. For example, confessions obtained as the result of an unlawful detention, may be suppressed. An unreasonable delay could serve as the basis for a law suit against the arresting officer. After you have pled “not guilty”, the Court will set a date for what it known as a “preliminary hearing.” It is at this stage of the process that an experienced attorney is critical; at this point of the process, your attorney begins uncovering the District Attorney’s basis for believing you have committed the crime you have been charged with. Your SDCA attorney will be present with you, fighting for your rights, and freedom, the entire time.
The preliminary hearing – an opportunity to test the criminal charges against you
While it is unfortunate that the case against has progressed so far, it is not the end by any means. This is where the truly exceptional attorneys separate themselves from the average attorney. At SDCA, the only attorneys we hire are the truly exceptional attorneys.
In the Preliminary Hearing, the magistrate overseeing the process generally conducts what is called a “probable cause hearing.” This is where the District Attorney presents their evidence against you, and attempts to convince the magistrate that a crime was committed, and that you are the person who committed that crime. If the magistrate is satisfied, then you are “held to answer”, if the magistrate is not satisfied, the case against you is discharged and you go home a free man, or woman.
More often than not, you are “held to answer.” This is where your SDCA attorney truly shines. At this point, you are entitled to receive all evidence the District Attorney has that is the basis of their belief that you committed the crime you are accused of, as well as all information that has a tendency to show that you did not commit the crime you are accused ofiv .It is critical that you have a skilled attorney, who is willing to fight for your Constitutional rights. Some District Attorneys have different opinions about what falls under the information you are entitled for. Your SDCA attorney will relentlessly pursue the District Attorney for any, and all, evidence pointing to you innocence; it is your right to have that information. Using that information, your SDCA attorney will hand-craft a defense against the charges against you, and vigorously advocate for you.
The preliminary Hearing is a mini-trial or sorts, and sets the stage for your jury trial. A skilled attorney will set the future stage favorably for you by fighting to keep improper evidence out of the case, challenging witnesses who may not be telling the whole truth, forcing those witnesses into a corner so they cannot sing a different tune at trial, and many other seemingly small things, that have a profound impact on a future trial.
At the Preliminary Hearing, the District Attorney will present the witnesses who claim to have information that shows you committed the crime you are accused of. Again, truly exceptional attorneys shine here. After the witness has given their testimony, or what they observed, your SDCA attorney will have the opportunity to conduct something called “cross-examination.” This is where the attorney tests the testimony of the witness, calling every detail into question and investigating it as if it were under a microscope. The truly great attorneys are able to poke holes in testimony, highlighting the flaws of the witness’s testimony, and tying it together with your defense. Exceptional cross-examination can, and does, win cases. Your SDCA attorney has trained extensively to master the art of cross-examination.
At the conclusion of the Preliminary Hearing, the magistrate will make a determination of whether or not there is enough evidence to require you to go forward with a jury trial. In coming to a conclusion, the Magistrate weighs the evidence, resolves conflicts, and assesses credibility. This is why skilled representation at the Preliminary Hearing is so critical; a skilled attorney will identify the best witnesses, and ask the right questions, bolster the strongest evidence in your favor, and cripple any evidence against you, a skilled attorney from SDCA will allow you to walk out of the Courthouse a free man, or woman.
If somehow, the magistrate finds that there is enough evidence against you, the magistrate will set a date for trial. The trial process is beyond the scope of this post, but skilled representation throughout the trial itself will have a lasting impact on a worst-case scenario outcome; the jury has found you guilty.
You have been found guilty: what consequences do you face, and how can you make it less severe?
Sometimes even the best attorneys can’t win the case. That does not mean the attorney’s efforts were worthless. As a result of their skilled maneuvers, certain evidence is not present, the judge and jury know it’s not as bad as it looks, they know you’re a good person with ties to the community. In short, the judge and jury know that if there was ever an opportunity to exercise leniency, it’s right now; that’s what an expert defense attorney brings to the table when all else has failed. That is what an attorney from SDCA brings to the table.
Call San Diego Criminal Attorney today for a FREE consultation at 619-880-5474.
Our award-winning lawyers serve clients in San Diego, North County San Diego and other communities in the San Diego County region.
We also provide professional board license defense in California