When you’re facing criminal charges, you’re probably worried about going to trial and the different kinds of court appearances you’ll have to make. Understanding the types of court dates can help you feel more comfortable with what’s ahead.
What Are the Different Types of Court Appearances in a Criminal Case?
Typically, misdemeanors and felonies follow the same sequence of court cases. You can have many court appearances before your actual trial, including an initial appearance, an arraignment, and others.
- Booking – After you’re arrested, you will be taken to the police station to be booked. At the booking, your name and the crime you’re accused of will be formally listed.
- Initial appearance –After your arrest, usually within 24 hours, you’ll have your first appearance at Recorder’s Court. The purpose of this appearance is to ensure that you are aware of the charges against you.At your initial appearance, the judge will typically determine or deny bond. If you’re denied, there are other opportunities to request bond. When clients have hired us after being denied bond at their initial appearance, we work to get bond set for them at later appearances.
- Bond Process –Bond is essentially monetary collateral that ensures you won’t flee, and that you’ll appear at your future court appearances if you are released from jail while you wait for your future court dates. If you miss a court appearance, the court retains the bond payment, and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
- Arraignment –After your initial appearance, you’ll have an arraignment where you’ll make your first plea. At The Turner Firm, we always plead not guilty at the arraignment. Our rule is to never submit a guilty plea before we have all the evidence. After the arraignment, we come away with much more evidence to inform our decision-making. There are multiple opportunities between your arraignment and your trial to change your plea if that becomes necessary.
- Discovery and Plea Hearings – At these hearings, both sides submit evidence prior to going to trial. The prosecution must submit all evidence it plans to present at trial, with few exceptions. Evidence can include witness testimony, physical evidence, test results, reports, etc. The defense must also submit plans to call any witnesses, evidence of an alibi, and other supporting evidence to support your side of the story. These hearings provide an opportunity for both sides to see all evidence, get an understanding of the other side’s argument, and work through any plea deals prior to trial.
- Motion Hearings–Motions are formal requests submitted to the court. Motions can be used to introduce or exclude evidence, change future court dates, or request bail. At The Turner Firm, we typically submit motions to introduce or suppress evidence.
- Plea Negotiations – Prior to trial, throughout discovery and motion hearings, the prosecution and defense can engage in plea negotiations. Sometimes, the evidence is so strong that the prosecution will drop the case at this point. More frequently, the prosecution will propose a plea they feel is appropriate for the crime, and the defense will counter – much like bargaining over a purchase. If the defense attorney and the defendant decide to agree to a plea bargain, a plea hearing will be scheduled where the plea is presented to the judge who typically approves the agreement. Physical attendance at this plea hearing is not always necessary.
- Trial – After all those initial appearances, arraignment, hearings, and plea negotiations, if nothing has changed, the next step is trial. There are two types of trials:
- Jury Trial –You have the right to a trial by jury. The jury will decide your innocence of guilt in your case.
- Bench Trial – There is no jury at this trial. Instead, the case is presented to a judge, and the judge is the sole decider of the outcome.
Throughout the court process, there are numerous opportunities that can change the direction of a case. Facing criminal charges and potentially going to trial can be intimidating, but we are here to guide you through the process and stand by your side in court. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation online or over the phone to start planning your defense.