After you have been arraigned, typically your case will be scheduled for at least one pre-trial hearing.
What is a pre-trial hearing?
A scheduled court appearance where you, your lawyer, and the prosecutor in front of the judge to report on the status of the case. These court appearances often serve a “house-keeping” function - it gives your lawyer an opportunity to argue motions on your behalf and have discussions with the prosecutor and the court about your case.
If I have a lawyer, do I need to be in court?
Generally, yes. Unless you are told otherwise by your lawyer, you should plan on attending pre-trial hearings. If you are charged with a felony offense, you are required to be in court unless your presence is otherwise excused. Even if you are only charged with a misdemeanor, your lawyer may advise you to come to court with her for a variety of reasons. One of the benefits of having a lawyer is that she may be able to have your appearance in court waived. This can be helpful if court appearances interfere with your employment or other obligations.
You are entitled to be present in court on any matter affecting your case.
When should I arrive in court?
Unless your lawyer tells you otherwise, arrive to court at least 15 minutes before your case is scheduled to be heard. Be sure plan for plenty of time to find parking and to navigate the crowded courthouse - lines getting into the courthouse and elevators are often slow.
Be prepared to go through metal detectors - leave guns (unless you have a valid permit), knives and other contraband at home.
Also, cell phone use is prohibited inside the courtroom. You will be instructed to turn off your phone and put it away. As there may be a wait before your case is called, you may want to bring something to read to occupy your time.
Where should I go?
Your lawyer will inform you of the date, time and location of your scheduled court appearances. Unless directed otherwise by your lawyer, wait for her inside the courtroom so she can find you there. If, for some reason, the Court calls your case before your lawyer arrives, simply inform the sheriff or the judge that you are represented by a lawyer and ask that they wait until she arrives.
If you forget or lose the information about your next pre-trial hearing, there are several ways you can find out yourself:
[Court docket (website), call the clerk’s office, info desk, screens, parking, courthouse locations, etc.]
How long will my court appearance take?
As much as judges, sheriffs, clerks and other courthouse personnel strive to keep their dockets on schedule, the day does not always run perfectly. Further, the length of your court appearance will depend on the business at hand - motions to be made, proof to be presented, arguments to be heard. Sometimes, a hearing will last only a few minutes; other times, a hearing could last for hours. Ask your lawyer what to expect in terms of the amount of time she predicts you will be in court. But, also be aware that it is not uncommon for hearings to last longer than predicted.
How many pre-trial hearings will I have before my case is finished?
It depends. The number of pre-trial hearings scheduled in a case depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the availability of the parties, and the court’s schedule.
You may have only one, or you may have dozens before a case is complete.