One of the most common questions asked by new clients is: what is going to happen at my next court appearance? The answer to that question largely depends on the particular facts and circumstances unique to your case. However, below are some common scenarios that may help give you a better understanding of what will happen and what is expected of you. As always, make sure you consult with your criminal defense attorney as every case is different.

What Will Happen At My First Court Appearance?

If it is your first appearance, the arraignment will occur. At the arraignment, the court generally reads your charges, and your lawyer will enter a not guilty plea on your behalf. Also, at that time the court will consider your release status and determine if bail should be set, or if any conditions should set during the pendency of your case, such as travel restrictions, or if a drug or alcohol evaluation should be completed.

What Exactly Will Happen At My Next Court Appearance?

This largely depends on whether you are charged with a felony, a misdemeanor, or a violation and how long it’s been since your first court appearance. Some appearances are to set up a schedule for motions (written legal arguments to the court) or hearings or to provide an update to the court regarding a particular issue in your case. A court appearance can also be used to resolve your case by way of a negotiated plea bargain or to conduct a trial.

If you have any questions or concerns, or if there is anything you would like to see addressed such as an order of protection or travel, you should talk to your criminal defense lawyer about raising the issue at the next appearance.

What Should I Wear To My Court Appearance?

If you are appearing in court, you should always dress professionally and conservatively. For men dress pants, khakis or nice denim is appropriate along with a collared shirt and casual shoes. A tie or jacket is not necessary unless your appearance is for a hearing or a trial. For women, a skirt, slacks, or nice denim is appropriate along with a nice shirt and an appropriate heel or flat shoe. Offensive T-shirts, distracting jewelry and clothing with rips should not be worn.

Will My Next Court Date Be Adjourned Or Rescheduled?

It is not uncommon for a case in a town, city, or village court to have repeated adjournments when the prosecutor or your criminal defense lawyer determines that an appearance is not needed. Of course, your criminal defense lawyer must always confirm that the court has adjourned the matter so your file does not reflect that you failed to appear.

Local criminal courts throughout New York State have extremely busy calendars. In some of the busiest town, city, or village courts, over 100 cases can be scheduled at one time! To ensure a matter is being adequately and timely addressed, NYS courts tend to schedule matters on the court calendar every 2 to 6 weeks even if it takes longer for your case to be investigated and analyzed.

Therefore, you should talk to your criminal defense lawyer to determine if and when a court appearance will be required.

Why Does My Case Keep Getting Adjourned?

There could be any number of reasons your case needs more time. One example is that discovery needs to be obtained and evidence reviewed. Additionally, there often needs to be time for your defense lawyer and the prosecutor to discuss the evidence in the case as well as a possible resolution prior to a trial. Written arguments may also need to be prepared and submitted to the court, or there could be other requirements that need to be met – such as a substance abuse evaluation, mental health treatment, or anger management classes.

No attorney wants to unnecessarily prolong your case knowing that it continues to cause you stress and anxiety. However, if your lawyer believes that appearing in court would be a waste of your time and a waste of court resources, it’s often a better strategy to adjourn the case to a future date.

Do I Have To Speak At My Court Appearance?

Maybe. But at most court appearances, other than possibly stating your name, your lawyer will be doing the talking for you. This is not because no one trusts you or thinks you are not intelligent enough to do so. Instead, court appearances are matters of record, meaning whatever is said is being recorded either by a stenographer or an audio recording. It is important that you have a criminal lawyer who is familiar with the process and procedures to protect your rights.

If you are appearing during a trial you may be testifying on the witness stand. This is something you should prepare for, at length, with your criminal defense lawyer, prior to your appearance in court.

In the event you are entering into a negotiated plea bargain, you can expect a judge to ask you several questions. The point of these questions is to ensure you know what you are doing and what rights you are giving up by entering into a plea bargain. During the questioning, you will be under oath. However, most questions are yes or no, and there are no trick questions. Listen closely, and if you are confused you should ask to speak to your lawyer who will be there with you. You should always talk to your criminal defense attorney prior to any plea bargain to insure you know exactly what you will need to say at your court appearance.

Do I Need To Prepare For My Next Court Appearance?

If you are not scheduled for a trial, you will generally not need to prepare for your next court appearance. If you are scheduled for a trial you may need to prepare to testify, and whether you will testify is an important conversation you should have with your criminal defense lawyer well before your scheduled trial date. You have right to testify at a trial, but if you choose not to testify, this cannot be used against you. You have an absolute right to remain silent regarding the charges filed against you. If you were ordered to obtain an alcohol or substance abuse evaluation or a mental health evaluation at a previous court appearance, you should make sure your lawyer has the evaluation prior to the next scheduled court date.

How Long Will My Court Appearance Take?

While a hearing may take hours, and a trial may take days or weeks, a non-trial/non-hearing court appearance is usually very short. Often you will spend more time waiting for your case to be called than your actual appearance before the judge. This is usually because most of the work was done outside of court, and the appearance is used for putting those issues “on the record” or in other words, in front of a stenographer or audio recording.