What is the court process for felony cases?
So, felony cases are a little bit different than misdemeanors. A felony is any crime that’s punishable by more than one year in jail.
The fist court date that’s going to be scheduled in your case is called a “plea day” or it might be also called an “arraignmnet.” It’s the same thing- it’s the first court date. In a felony case, they’re going to give you a piece of paper that hearing. It’s called the information and that’s the charging document that lays out exactly what you’re being accused of. The judge will also ask you some questions about whether or not you have a lawyer, whether or not you plan to hire a lawyer, or whether or not you’d like to have the court appoint a lawyer for you from the public defender’s office, and then you’ll be assigned other court dates that come after the plea day.
As long as you have an attorney before the plea day, we can file paperwork that will have you excused from having to appear. It’s called a “waiver of appearance,” and a written plea of not guilty. You will not have to appear in person if you have an attorney that files that paperwork. I would caution you that unless your attorney or the judge excuses you from court, you do need to be there.
So, after the plea day, the case is going to get scheduled for what’s called a “pretrial conference.” We have three felony judges here in Okaloosa County. Two of them do not make you go to court, so if you have either Judge Brown or Judge Flowers, you will not have to go to your pretrial conference. We can have you sign the waiver of appearance and we’ll go to court for you. If judge Stone is assigned to your case, you will have to attend your pretrial conference along with your attorney.
And then after the pretrial conference, the case is going to be set for what is called a “docket day.” Docket day is the final court appearance before a case either enters into a plea agreement, gets dismissed, or goes to trial. So one of those three things will be announced at docket day, and that’s also an appearance, regardless of who your judge is, that you will have to be present for with your attorney.
In between each of those kind of benchmarks in the case, there’s a lot that’s happening behind the scenes. Your attorney and the prosecutor are exchanging evidence and information. It’s called discovery. Depositions in your case might be scheduled. Motions might be filed in court. And all if that is really done to kind of narrow down what are the issues that are in dispute and is there a way to either resolve the case, dismiss the case, or prepare it for trial? Either way, we have extensive experience defending felonies. We’re ready to help you, so just give us a call.