What Happens on The First Court Date?
Clients ask me this question all the time. Even if they don’t, I still answer it before they leave my office. I don’t want you to be surprised by anything or worry too much. I’ll be right next to you every time we have Court. A good part of my job is to reduce surprises, remember? Whether we’re in Municipal Court, Justice of the Peace Court, County Court, or District Court, all of what I’m explaining to you here applies in Texas Courts. Just follow some basic rules.
But first, I just want to remind everyone what’s expected of you by the Court. You should come to Court wearing their Sunday’s best. You don’t have to be the best dressed person in Court, but you do have to be presentable. If you want to wear your jeans and your boots, go ahead. Just make sure they’re clean!
Here’s a short list of things that will definitely upset the Judge and put you on their bad side…
What NOT to do/wear:
- Ripped, baggy, sagging pants
- Ripped, baggy, shirt
- Obscene Pictures on your shirt/Vulgar language
- Flip Flops or Shorts
- Hats in the Courtroom
- No drinks/gum/food
- No Cellphones turned on or ringing
- No Children/Crying Babies
Ok, so now that you have the ground rules, what happens on the first Court date?
The first question is whether what type of “Setting” are we going to?
The Setting type matters. I need to find out whether it’s a Designation of Attorney Setting or an Announcement Setting. It tells me everything I need to know about what will happen and in turn, I can tell you what to expect. If it’s a Designation of Attorney Setting, I can call up the Court after you hire me and we won’t have to go to Court on that date. Once they know you’ve hired a lawyer, they’ll give me a new Court date. You’re off the hook on the first one.
The purpose of the Announcement Setting is for the Prosecutor and I to sit down and talk about your case. At this point, I may or may not have had the chance to get the criminal discovery that they have against you. Again, these are the police reports, witness statements, evidence, pictures, video that will be used against you. If I DO HAVE the discovery, the Prosecutor and I can discuss the meat and potatoes of your case. This may include a plea bargain offer. Don’t worry, if an offer is made, you won’t have to accept it on the spot.
If I DO NOT HAVE the discovery, then we’ll have to come back at the next Court date for the Prosecutor and I to discuss your case. It will be hard for me, if not impossible, to prepare a defense in your case unless I know what the State has against you. That’s not me wasting my time or dragging my feet. I just need to know what you’re up against. As soon as I get the discovery, you’ll get a call/email from me and we can sit down to talk and look it over.
Keep this in mind: Whatever happens in Court, you and I will talk privately afterwards.
Dress appropriately for Court. Don’t come to Court wearing clothes that you would only wear at the beach or clothes with obscene/vulgar words or images. I’ll be by your side when we go to Court. If we’ve received the Criminal Discovery, you may get a plea offer before we leave Court. If I don’t have the Discovery we’ll have to come back another time until I receive it, and you and I can look it over.