By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
So you’ve been arrested and released — and now you get a letter in the mail telling you that you have a court appearance for your criminal case in Collin County, Texas. Now what?
How a Notice to Appear Works — Court Dockets
Let me explain as best as I can… in Collin County (and most everywhere else in Texas), Courts that handle Class B Misdemeanors and above typically have what are called dockets or docket calls. Docket is the way the Courts manage the one, two, or ten thousand cases or that have been filed in their court.
The Court requests everyone appear on a certain date and this appearance serves two main functions; (1) to make sure that you are honoring your bond terms and conditions; and (2) to make sure your case is moving towards resolution (whether that be a trial, a guilty plea, or a dismissal).
What are You Responsible For?
Showing up. Though every court is different, most courts won’t require you to enter a plea on a first setting or do anything that would require you visiting directly with the Judge. If you do meet with the Judge, it’s likely to be administrative in nature and not ultimately regarding the underlying facts of your case.
Do I need a Lawyer?
Absolutely. If you have been charged with a Class B Misdemeanor or higher — that means your potential punishment is up to 180 days in jail if not more. Just think about how being sentenced to 180 days in the county jail would re-arrange your life! Even though that may seem like an extreme example — the fact is you wouldn’t toy with an illness that could possibly take you completely out-of-commission for 6 months without a doctor — so how is this any different? Plus, I’ve written blog after blog about the dangers of the collateral consequences of criminal charges you may not even think of, the dangers of dealing directly with prosecutors, and other great reasons to get lawyers involved in these cases.
What if You can’t Make it on Your Scheduled Appearance Day?
Some Courts in Dallas and Collin Counties have flexible policies with initial appearances — but never assume a Court will excuse an absence. If you’re not in Court for your appearance a warrant can be issued for your arrest. Ask your lawyer and they can often coordinate your schedule with the Court’s docket.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice, you should consult an attorney directly about any specific set of circumstances.