The Court Process
- First Appearance / Bond Court:
A Defendant is typically brought before a Judge within 48 hours of his/her arrest. The Judge will determine, based upon the synopsis of the police report, if there was sufficient probable cause for an arrest. The Judge will ask the Defendant if he/she has an attorney or if he/she can afford to hire one. The Defendant will be required to submit an Affidavit of Assets and Liabilities if seeking the appointment of the Public Defender’s Office. If the Judge determines that the Defendant does not have the financial means to hire an attorney, the Judge will then appoint the Public Defender’s Office to the case.
The Judge will also set a bond of the Defendant on this court date. The bond amount will be based upon the nature of the offense and the Defendant’s past criminal history. An arraignment and preliminary hearing date will then be set.
- Felony Appointments:
Once the Public Defender’s Office accepts an appointment to a felony case, the case will be assigned to a Defense Investigator. The Defense Investigator will speak with those Defendants who are in custody and obtain both demographic information as well as information concerning the alleged incident. Typically, the Public Defender’s Office has not yet received any discovery (i.e. police reports, etc.) on the case at this point. Any information provided to the Defense Investigator by the client regarding the offense is privileged and will be forwarded to the Assistant Public Defender who will be assigned the case.
- Arraignment and Preliminary Hearing:
At this court date, the client is formally charged, or indicted, with an offense. The Assistant Public Defender assigned to the Courtroom 405 will enter a plea of “not guilty” on the client’s behalf. The State’s Attorney’s Office usually will tender the discovery (i.e. police reports, etc.) on the case at this court date or soon afterward. The Judge will assign the case to a felony courtroom for pre-trial. One of the Assistant Public Defenders assigned to that felony courtroom will be given the file. Please note bond reductions will not occur on this court date. Bond reducations must be done in front of the trial Judge.
- Pre-Trial Dates:
During these court dates, the client has the option to set his/her case for trial or have the Assistant Public Defender negotiate a plea agreement on his/her behalf. The client may also choose to enter a “blind plea” before the Judge, where there is no pre-determined sentencing agreement with the State’s Attorney’s Office. The Assistant Public Defender will review the discovery (i.e. police reports, etc.) with the client, explain the charges and sentencing ranges, decide if any Investigation is necessary, and convey and explain any plea offers from the State’s Attorney Office. In some cases, an Investigator may review discovery with the client. Bond reductions may also occur at these court dates.
When the case is set for trial, the Defendant has the option of choosing either a jury trial, in which 12 individuals decide the case, or a bench trial, where the Judge renders the verdict. Any trial strategy is to be decided by the attorney.