Your first court date

Your first court date after YOU bonded of jail. Now what happens?

Your first court date. If you just bonded out of jail, you will have to be in court within a few days to two weeks. Know what to expect.

You first court date, an attorney at your side is the best thing. If you do not have an attorney on your first court date, he judge will reset your case to hire one. If you cannot hire a lawyer, request a court appointed lawyer from the cour. Either way, you will have an attorney to represent you in your case.

You first court date is for your attorney to sign on to your case. He can then access the offense report.

This will allow your lawyer to review the offense report. Sometimes the arresting agency has not turned in the report on your first court date. If this happens, the case will be reset until the offense report is available.

On your first court date, your lawyer will usually file a request under Sec. 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. This request will allow your lawyer to get copies of everything in the states file. This includes, videos recordings, audio recordings, witness statements and offense reports.

Your first court date will always get reset to a new date.

This gives you a chance to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Or if you already have one, it give him a chance to review the evidence against you. Before the next court date, you will meet with our lawyer to discuss facts of your case. This cannot be accomplished on your first court date.

Your first court date may be reset several times after your first court date. There are several reasons for this. First the court is overloaded with cases and they cannot all be resolved quickly. Additionally, and more importantly, it gives your lawyer plenty of time to investigate your case and prepare your defense.

You don’t want your lawyer relying only on what the state says you did wrong. And you don’t want your lawyer relying on what is in the offense report. Your lawyer will want to do his own investigation. This means contacting witnesses, visiting the scene of the crime and consulting with experts.

Your lawyer may also contact other witnesses is not aware of. There may also be videos from sources the state did not think to get. There could also be other sources of beneficial information that a thorough investigation may turn up.

You want to give your lawyer time to do his work. Your first court date is not the time for your lawyer to work your case out. I have found evidence on many occasions that resulted in a dismissal of charges.

Your first court date is not the date for a trial or for you to plead guilty just to get the case over with.

Let your lawyer do his work. It can only benefit you to allow your lawyer to investigate. Nothing your lawyer finds out will hurt your case. This is because your lawyer is under no obligation to tell the prosecuting attorney what he knows or finds out. More importantly, your lawyer may find some evidence that will get your case dismissed altogether.

What should you expect at your first court date?

Your first court appearance is known as your arraignment. An arraignment is a brief hearing in which you are informed of the charges against you and then asked to enter a plea.

Often you will already know or have an idea of the charges based on your initial arrest or ticketing; however, sometimes upon further examination by the prosecutor, the charges will shift, expand, or lessen.

Arraignment hearings are in some ways very predictable. You can expect that many similar hearings may all be scheduled in the same time slot as yours and that you may have to wait hours before your name is called. Furthermore, you should expect that once called, you arraignment won’t last more than about five minutes.

Typically, the charges against you will not come as a surprise, and you can therefore decide in advance how you plan to plead. In fact, you can also expect that the prosecutor or judge may offer you a plea deal—an option you can and should discuss with your lawyer before accepting or refusing. And in the event that certain charges come unexpected, support from a qualified criminal defense attorney becomes all the more crucial as you decide how to plead.

What to know about how to plead at your first court date

After revealing the extent of the charges you’ll face, the judge at your arraignment will ask that you enter a plea. You have three options for how to plead:

  • Guilty – You are admitting to the crime(s) with which you are charged and accepting whatever sentence and other penalties the court decides on
  • Not guilty – You are indicating your intent to take your case to trial to prove your innocence
  • No contest – You will accept punishment for the crime, but refuse to admit guilt explicitly

You can always request clarification on what the penalties for a particular plea could or would entail.

Prosecutors would prefer to wrap up cases as quickly and simply as possible rather than drag them out spending time and resources on a criminal trial.

So frequently, they’ll offer plea deals that involve your pleading guilty or no contest to lesser charges in exchange for more lenient sentencing than you might receive if you are found guilty in court for the more serious offense(s). Your lawyer can advise you of the pros and cons of accepting a particular plea deal.

How to dress for your first court date

Even at your arraignment, it is only to your benefit to appear prepared and professional. You want to make a good impression any time you’re in court. The general standard is business casual, so stay away from anything too informal like jeans, tee shirts, sweats/athleisure, sneakers, sandals, and the like.

Slacks or a skirt with a dress shirt or blouse and dress shoes are ideal, as are full suits or office-appropriate dresses. Keep in mind that court attire tends to skew conservative, so you should also avoid anything too revealing, brightly colored, or ostentatious.

Consult a Texas criminal defense attorney for help at your first court date

Preparation is key when it comes to appearing in court—especially at your first hearing. A good defense lawyer can help you anticipate the unexpected, evaluate your options, and guide you through subsequent court appearances.

To learn more about how Kingwood attorney Andrew J. Williams supports clients like you facing criminal charges, call our law firm at 281-358-9111 to schedule a free consultation or contact us online.

By: Andrew Williams, board certified criminal lawyer

Andrew Williams, an experienced attorney who can challenge evidence in a DWI case
About the Author: Andrew Williams
I am a criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years experience defending people accused of wrongdoing. I am board certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Only ten percent of attorneys in Texas are board certified in their respective field. I practice criminal law exclusively in both state and federal court including appeals of criminal cases.