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If you’re facing felony charges then you should be getting notices in the mail about your court dates. Sometimes it can be unclear what the notices mean, whether you need to show up to court, and what’s going to happen when you show up. In this blog post, I’m going to break down the main court appearances associated with a criminal case.

1. Preliminary Hearing:

What Happens?
If you’re facing a felony charge and you haven’t been indicted yet, you will have the option to get a preliminary hearing. All that happens there is the judge determines whether there is probable cause to keep the defendant’s bond in place (or keep the defendant in jail if they can’t make bond) until the grand jury decides whether to move forward with the case. It’s like a mini trial with more lenient rules and no jury.
Do You Have to Show Up? 
A preliminary hearing is something you have to request. In other words, it’s for your benefit. It’s a chance for your lawyer to talk to law enforcement about your case and sometimes it can be incredibly helpful.
It would be unusual for the judge to issue a writ if you didn’t show up the preliminary hearing but they also definitely wouldn’t reschedule it for you.

2. Arraignment:

What Happens?
When the Grand Jury meets they will talk about your case and decide whether there is probable cause that you did the things you have been charged with. If the Grand Jury finds probable cause then they indict you, meaning they formally charge you with the offenses and give the state permission to move forward with prosecution.
After you’re indicted you have the constitutional right to have your charges read to you in open court. It’s not a chance to argue any issues about your case and generally it’s not a chance to talk to the judge either. All that happens usually is an attorney goes over your charges with you.
Do You Have to Show Up?
Yes, unless you meet with your attorney before hand and sign a waiver of arraignment. If you don’t show up to your arraignment and your attorney doesn’t file a waiver of arraignment the judge will likely issue a writ for your arrest.

Call Docket/ Jury Trial

You may have gotten a notice in the mail that has two dates on it. The first says, “Appearance” or “Call” under the description and the second says “Jury Trial.” We will take up each in turn.  

3. Call Docket:

What Happens?
Your case is one among hundreds that are pending before the judge who it gets assigned to. It’s the judge’s job to keep track of all of the cases and find out whether they will go to trial. He will do this by making a long list of cases (including yours) and having all of the defendants on that list show up to court with their attorneys at the time listed. When the judge calls your name your attorney will say whether you are in court and whether your case is for plea or trial.
Do You Have to Show Up?
Yes. When you were released on bond one of the conditions was that you show up to court (specifically, call dockets). If you miss the call docket the judge will issue a writ for your arrest.

4. Jury Trial:

What Happens?
Even though the notice says “Jury Trial” next to a certain day and time, you almost never have to show up at that day and time. As mentioned, call dockets usually have a lot of defendants on them. Of those, only a few of them will go to trial. Of those few, even fewer will go to trial during one of the trial weeks that corresponds with the docket. If you are one of those few then you will have a trial.
Do You Have to Show Up?
As mentioned above, you almost never have to show up to this. Usually, it’s safe to assume that you don’t have to show up to this one unless your attorney tells you otherwise.

Make Sure your Notices are Getting Sent to the Right Place.  

If you’re not getting notices but think you should be, call the Criminal Division of the Circuit Clerk’s Office. Tell them who you are, what cases you have pending, and the address where you get your mail. They will be able to pull you up in the system and tell you (1) whether any notices have been sent out (2) if so, the address they have been sent to. If they’re getting sent to an old address then you can file a change of address form in the Clerk’s Office.
If you are facing a criminal charge and would like to talk to a lawyer about it, call the Browne House Law Group today.