By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Many times when people get their “notice to appear” from the Collin County Courts, they read the document two or three times and still aren’t exactly sure what it means or what-all they need to do before their appearance. Today’s blawg is designed to help.
If you’ve been sent a “notice to appear” a month or two after an arrest, then this is your notification that the Criminal District Attorney’s office has filed charges against you and that you need to come to Court on the date listed. That much is obvious.
What isn’t obvious — and what I get a lot of questions about — is what will happen at this appearance and what, if anything, needs to be done before hand to prepare.
What an Appearance Accomplishes
First, it is the Court’s way of keeping tabs of the people that are currently out on bond after a criminal arrest. Unless there are other terms and conditions of bond, you will generally satisfy the Court’s requirements simply by showing up and checking in.
Court’s have hundreds (if not thousands) of cases to handle at any given time. An announcement is their way of setting a time and place for you or your lawyer to talk with the State about the facts and to discuss how the case will be resolved. It usually takes multiple announcements before parties to decide how the case will be handled (usually a trial, plea, or dismissal).
Should you get a Lawyer?
Yes. Even the lowest county level offense carries a maximum penalty of 180-days confinement in the county jail. Though that is an extremely rare punishment on a Class B misdemeanor, it gives you an idea of just how serious the charges you are facing really are. Even 10 days of jail is enough to re-arrange most people’s lives by losing jobs and having bills go unpaid. Not having a lawyer is a great way to make a fast deal you’ll sorely regret later.
Will I be Seeing the Judge?
Maybe, but your first time in Court isn’t a trial setting in Collin County. If you see the judge that day it’s generally your own choice if you want to enter into a guilty plea and accept a deal from the State. Otherwise, some Judges choose to admonish you directly about representing yourself (if you so choose), or by appointing an attorney to represent you if you qualify. In all likelihood, though, you probably won’t be in front of a judge that day.
Should I just talk with the Prosecutor and See if I Can Make a Deal with Them?
*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 designed to be legal advice. For legal advice about any specific case you should consult with an attorney directly.