What Happens in Court

What's going to happen to me in court?
This depends on the type of case or situation that we are helping you with. Since the bulk of our cases relate to someone being investigated for or charged with a crime, that will be discussed most fully here. If you have a question about another type of case, you should contact our offices and discuss your questions with attorneys who handle your type of situation.

Criminal cases come to court a number of ways depending on the nature of the charges and the age of the person to be charged. For most charges where the person is under the age of 18, those cases start and end in Juvenile Court. In rare cases a person under the age of 18 may be tried as an adult if the charge is very serious. For persons over the age of 18, the following information may be helpful.

The first appearance you make in a criminal case is called an arraignment.  This is the time for you to be given a copy of the charges against you and to decide whether you want to have an attorney assist you if you have not already consulted one. It is also the time that a judge will ask you " How do you plead?" Before you enter any plea you should decide whether you want the assistance of an attorney. The law also requires that you be advised of your rights in these proceedings and that you be told the full consequences of entering a plea. If you wish to have the court appoint an attorney to help you or advise you, this is the usually the first and best time to make the request. The Law Offices of the Public Defender will have one of our attorneys available at this hearing.

If you are in custody at this first hearing, this proceeding is also a time in which the judge can consider bail issues or your release during your case. Usually by the time that your case comes into court, it has already been reviewed by a bail officer and judge and a specific bail amount has been set according to what is known as the Bail Schedule. At the arraignment a judge can consider whether to increase or decrease that setting. Your bail can go up or down at the arraignment depending on what charges are filed and what can be shown about your background and history in this community and elsewhere. Once the amount is set you may post bail in cash or by the use of a bail bond. You or your family may also put up property as bail. Once you have posted bail you will be released during the rest of your court proceedings. If you cannot post bail, you will remain in custody until the case is completed.

The Arraignment is also a time to discuss possible settlement of your case in many circumstances. In most locations our attorneys in court will be able to review police reports about your case and to discuss the facts and circumstances of the situation with you. If the reports are not available or if additional information is necessary to best assist you, the arraignment may need to be continued to gather that information.

What happens after the arraignment depends on some of the choices you make at that stage and what kind of case you have. Criminal charges are either misdemeanors or felonies. See the FAQ section for more information about Misdemeanor and Felony charges.