What should I know about court appearances?
Sometimes you will be asked to meet me at my office before court if necessary. Other times you will be asked to show up directly at your court for an appearance. Especially if you are going to a larger county, please allow extra time for traffic, parking, going through security, and huge delays at the elevator. Judges can be very strict and punitive to defendants who do not show up in the courtroom at the time they are required.
What happens if I arrive at my criminal court late?
Some judges have zero tolerance for defendants who show up late, and they will order the bailiff to take the late defendant into custody. This is obviously not good. Depending on the reason that you are late however, and whether or not this is the first time you are late, your attorney may be able to beg the judge to forgive you and release you from custody. The best practice is DON’T BE LATE. Be sure to err on the side of arriving early. This is especially important in larger counties as traffic, parking, security lines, and elevator lines can be very slow. Everyone is showing up at around the same time, and it creates delay.
What is proper court attire?
Though you will see people at the court house dressed very casually, judges make snap decisions about you based on what you are wearing. Be sure to wear modest, respectful clothes to your court appearances. If you are going to trial, consult with me as to what you should wear.
What can I expect during my first court appearance?
The first court appearance is not a trial. For the most part, the judges are seeking to determine whether or not a defendant has secured legal counsel. Sometimes, that’s all that happens and the case is reset for a later date for the discovery process to take place. There are occasions, depending on the charge, when the judges want to hear a synopsis of the allegations against the defendant. Some judges do this, some don’t. In addition, there may be some discussion between the lawyers and the judge as to whether any additional bond conditions will need to be put into place. Examples of this could be the requirement of an electronic monitor or the requirement for a “blow and go” device put on a person’s car. There is no need for a defendant to be concerned that they will need to defend themselves on the charge or to provide testimony for the first appearance.
Finally, remember one of the reasons to have a lawyer is that the attorney does the talking for you. If you attend your first court appearance without an experienced criminal defense attorney, it is advisable not to discuss the facts of the case, even if you think it’s a good idea.
Will I be drug tested when I go to criminal court?
Sometimes in Texas, judges will require that a defendant submit to a drug test by the way of a urine sample. If you have a positive sample (a “dirty urine sample”) on the first court appearance, a defendant will usually be admonished to stop using drugs. If a defendant provides a dirty urine sample on a subsequent court appearance, it suggests to the judge that a defendant has been using drugs while on bond. This is one of the ways people find themselves in jail, waiting for their case to come to a conclusion. If you are arrested and you are a user of drugs, you should at a minimum stop while your case is pending.
How long will my case take?
Legal time typically is slower than normal time. The legal process usually progresses at a glacial pace. For most criminal cases, nothing is going on for a while when the prosecutors are processing thousands of cases, and then suddenly there’s a lot of activity. Usually, you will have multiple court appearances every three weeks to a month or so before a case is actually set for trial. That’s just how the system works, and there’s little you can do about that.
The reason most cases have multiple court settings is that judges want to monitor defendants to make sure that they are not getting in trouble prior to the trial date. This slow pace can be frustrating when you feel the pressure of criminal charges, but knowing most cases go slowly will give you the right expectations.
What can I do about the emotional issues I am experiencing?
Often people going through criminal matters experience high levels of stress and/or drug, alcohol dependency issues that make things difficult to cope. Though lawyers certainly work with people experiencing stress, in-depth counseling beyond what a lawyer does may be necessary. If you feel overwhelmed, please let me know and I will direct you to some helpful resources.
How can I bail someone out of jail? Do I need a bail bondsman? How do bail bonds work?
It may depend on the particulars of the offense. With these questions, contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer in a timely manner can be helpful. Typically in Texas state cases, the best way to get someone out of jail is to contact a professional bondsman. Bail bond companies answer the phones 24/7 and usually charge approximately 10-20% of the bail as payment for their services. If you have a warrant out for your arrest, you may need to get a bond. A bail bond company and criminal defense attorney may be helpful, but you can’t really tell without knowing the facts.
You can avoid the bondsman charge by paying cash, verified cashier’s check or money order. There are a number of downsides to paying a cash bond: There are often significant delays waiting to pay a cash bond. It sometimes results in delays of jail release, and the Sheriff’s Department may hold your money for weeks after the final disposition of the case. Money that you spend on a cash bond may be better used for hiring an experienced attorney. Sometimes paying a significant cash bond from lawful and legitimate funds gets unwelcome scrutiny from law enforcement entities. When you’re attempting to bail someone out of jail, you need to gather some basic information:
- Defendant’s full name
- Defendant’s date of birth
- Prior arrest record, if any
- Bond amount
- Booking number
Full name and date of birth is the most critical information because bonding companies can look up detailed information. Often, bonding companies will require an adult sign-off as co-signer on the bond before they will be willing to make bond for a person. This makes the co-signer responsible to pay the full value of the bond to the county in the event that the defendant runs off.
How do I find out if I may have a warrant for my arrest?
Even though there are sites online that say they can find out about arrest warrants (for a fee), the most accurate ones are the ones maintained by governmental entities. Often bonding companies will look up whether there is an active warrant on you at no expense. Even so, if you or a loved one believes there may be a warrant out for your arrest on a serious matter or you are under investigation, please get criminal defense attorney help immediately to determine the status of the warrant and investigation. Often early intervention can lead to a better result.
What do I do if there is a warrant for my arrest?
If you have an active warrant for your arrest, do not ignore it. There is no one answer to this for every situation. Sometimes contacting a professional bonding company is best. Sometimes it is best to work with a criminal defense attorney to determine the best course of action.
Can I represent myself in misdemeanor cases?
You can, but it is not advisable. Even attorneys should obtain representation from another attorney when charged with a crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to get you a better result than you trying to defend yourself. They will be able to look at the law, the facts, and what court you are in and determine the best course of action.