The next court date for a criminal defendant charged with a misdemeanor offense is generally a status date for the defendant to have his defense attorney file an appearance and request any evidence in the case that the State will be using against the defendant. If the case is going to result in a plea of guilty it is possible for the whole case to be resolved on the first court date. However, in most cases there may be one or several more status dates until the case is eventually set down for a jury trial, bench trial, or a plea of guilty.
The next court date for a criminal defendant charged with a felony offense is usually the preliminary hearing. This hearing generally occurs within a few weeks from the bond hearing. If the defendant is still in custody because he or she could not post the bond set, the hearing must be held within 30 days of arrest, unless the defendant agrees to a continuance. If the defendant is on bond, the hearing must be held within 60 days of arrest, unless the defendant agrees to a continuance. At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution must prove to a judge that there is probable cause for the case to move forward. The Prosecution generally does this through eyewitness testimony or testimony from the investigating police officer. The defense attorney will have an opportunity to cross-examine all witnesses. If the judge finds no probable cause or if a hearing is not held within the proscribed time constraints, the case is dismissed. However, the prosecution can decide to bring the charge to a grand jury, and if the grand jury returns what is called a true bill, the case will be reinstated, and the defendant will be notified by the court that he must return to court.
The next blog, I will discuss the court appearance that follows the preliminary hearing – the arraignment.