Understanding Your Court Hearings
One of the most common questions that we hear from our clients is “What is going to happen at my next court date?” This article is meant to give our current and potential clients an idea of what each type of court hearing entails and what could potentially occur at each type of hearing. When charged with a criminal offense, you will receive notices in the mail requesting your appearance and a multitude of different types of hearings with different and alien names. The purposes of these hearings might not be obvious, so it is all the more important that you speak to an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer to guide you through the process.Advisory or First Appearance
The first court hearing that you might experience is the first appearance hearing. If you have been arrested and are being held without a bond, or if you have a bond set and you have not been able to post it, you have a right to appear before a judge within 24 hours of your arrest. At the first appearance hearing, a judge will determine whether or not your bond will be reduced or if you will be released onto a pretrial release program. On certain cases, the first appearance judge will also give you warnings not to return to the scene of the alleged crime and not to contact the alleged victim of the crime. If you have not been arrested or if you were able to bond out, you may not have a first appearance hearing.Arraignment
If the prosecution decides to formally charge you with a crime, the first hearing that will follow the filing is your arraignment hearing. The arraignment is a formal hearing at which the judge presiding over your case will read the charging document informing you of the charges that have been filed. The Court will then request that you either enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. At this stage it is advisable that you enter a not guilty plea so that your lawyer has time to prepare your case for a trial or some other resolution. Even if you intend to plea guilty to your charges, you should enter a not guilty at your arraignment hearing because you can always change your plea later on in the case. If you retain an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer to represent you, they can often waive your appearance at the arraignment and file paperwork entering a not guilty plea on your behalf.Pre-Trial Hearings
Following the Arraignment, the Judge on your case will likely set a pre-trial hearing, also known as a disposition or a calendar call. Regardless of the name, the hearings all serve the same purpose. Pre-trial hearings serve as the “jack of all trade” hearings where multiple things can happen. At the early stages of your case, pre-trial hearings will serve as status hearings where the court is updated on the case. At the pre-trial hearing, other, more substantive hearings can be scheduled, and minor motions can be heard. Motions for continuances, extensions of time, discovery motions to compel, and other motions that don’t require a significant hearing can all be addressed at a pre-trial hearing. A dedicated St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer will keep you updated on the goings-on of your case and will inform you whenever something important happens at one of these hearings. Your lawyer can also waive your appearance at these hearings so that you do not have to take time away from your own work and life to attend.Speak to our Lawyers Today
The hearings listed above only scratch the surface of the type of hearings that might be set in your case. The lawyers at Hanlon Law will be happy to explain to you the meaning of each and every hearing and will go over everything that needs to be done before those hearings. If you have been charged with a crime and have an upcoming hearing, call us today at 727.897.5413.