This is a broad outline of the felony criminal process. Please note, each case is different and presents distinct circumstances, opportunities, and challenges.
General Issues On Court Appearance
You must be on time for all court appearances. If you are not on time, there could be a warrant for your arrest and additional charges against you. Often, we must discuss some concerns before the hearing. Therefore, to ensure that you will be on time and prepared, you should be at the courthouse at least 15 minutes before the time your case is scheduled.
You should show up for court dressed in “court appropriate” clothing. (Men) You should at least wear a clean collared shirt and slacks. If you are comfortable wearing a suit and tie, that is preferred. (Women) You should at least wear a clean blouse and slacks. If you are comfortable wearing a dress or skirt, that is preferred. Jeans and T-shirts should be avoided. No shorts, tank tops, sandals, flip-flops or similar items. Hats, gum, food or drink are not allowed in a courtroom. You should turn off your cell phone or pager, or better yet, leave it in the car.
When addressing the judge, be polite and courteous. Do not interrupt the judge or speak aggressively. Remember, the court reporter must record everything you say. Answer the judge clearly with responses such as “Yes, sir/ma’am/judge/your honor.” Do not use slang, profanity or words such as “uh huh,” “nah uh,” and so on.
If the police arrested you and you are still in jail, you are entitled to a “bond” hearing. This hearing is very limited. At the hearing, the judge will set bond, the amount of money you need to pay, or conditions you need to follow to be released while your case goes through the court process. A “signature bond” allows your release without paying the amount of bond ordered if you follow the rules for release set by the court. The judge will also schedule the case for further hearings. At the bond hearing, the judge will not determine your guilt or innocence, rule on any issues of police conduct, or dismiss the charges. A bond hearing will generally last about 10 minutes.
In determining the amount and conditions of bond, judges look at several factors. Judges usually give the most weight to your prior criminal history and the severity of the charges. Judges try to set bond at a level that will ensure you appear for court and don’t commit further wrongdoing. If you fail to follow the conditions set by the judge, your bond can be forfeited (with a signature bond, a judgment for the amount of the bond can be entered against you), you will likely return to jail, and an additional felony charge (bail jumping) will be filed against you.