What is going to happen on my court date for my criminal case?court date

We receive phone calls every day from both current clients and potential clients wondering what exactly is going to happen at their next court date.  The criminal justice system works pretty slowly and more often than not, your next court date is not your trial date.

Different criminal charges in different jurisdictions have different levels of court and different procedures. In this blog, we are specifically discussing superior court in North Carolina, where felony matters are handled.  This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the advice and counsel of a criminal defense lawyer.

First appearance

Upon arrest for a criminal charge, the first court appearance is a simple one.  The defendant is informed of the charges, they are asked if they want to hire an attorney, have an attorney appointed to them, or if they would rather represent themselves.  Finally, they are given their next court date.

Nothing substantive happens at a first appearance, and your case can almost NEVER be resolved at this point.

Bond Hearing

When someone is arrested for a crime, a bond is usually initially set by a magistrate.  At this bond hearing, however, your criminal defense lawyer can make an argument before a judge to have your bond reduced.

Probable cause hearing

In North Carolina, all felonies begin in district court but are eventually moved to superior court.  This transfer is complete by either waiving probable cause or being indicted by a grand jury.  In this appearance you can waive probable cause, or request that your case be indicted.  Some counties also allow for an actual probable cause hearing to see whether or not there were facts that were legally sufficient to arrest you.

Scheduling conference

A scheduling conference is a court date that is mainly for your criminal defense lawyer and the prosecutor.  This is to make sure all the discovery has been turned over to the defense, and to discuss any possible plea offer that is available.

Arraignment

An arraignment is simply the formal reading of the charges by the judge and the judge asking whether the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty.  If the defendant pleads guilty, the case ends here. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case is set for trial.

Pre-Trial readiness conference

This is typically the last court appearance before the trial.  There are final conflict checks, notices for affirmative defenses, and final preparations for the trial.

Trial date

The trial date can come a long time after initial charging.  Pre-trial motions are often heard on the first date of trial, right before jury selection.  The trial ends when the jury finds the defendant guilty or not guilty.

*Depending on your particular criminal case, all of these court appearances may occur, and some of them can even get continued, resulting in multiple appearance for that one particular hearing. Also, some of these appearances may not happen at all.  This is one of the many reasons you should hire a criminal defense lawyer.

At Gilles Law, we handle North Carolina criminal defense, South Carolina criminal defense, and Federal criminal defense. Contact us today.