So you've been arrested in Kaufman County, and you have a court date in County Court at Law? This guide will help you prepare for the process and hopefully reduce some of the stress that goes with a criminal court appearance.
1. Is your case in the County Court at Law? Or County Court at Law 2?
Kaufman County has two courts that hear misdemeanor criminal cases, County Court at Law, and County Court at Law 2. Cases are randomly assigned to a prosecutor (in a process called intake), these misdemanor prosecuors are assigned to a certain county court. So if you hire an attorney before your case is filed, you can usually find out which prosecutor is on the case, and which court you are in.
Once your case is filed it assigned a case number that tells you which court you are in. If you have a misdemeanor case in the County Court at Law that was filed in 2013 it will have a number like 13CL-0135. 13 is the year, CL is criminal, and the last four digits are the number of cases in that court for the year. If you are in County Court at Law 2, the case number will have an extra "-2" at the end. So your case number will look like like, 13CL-0135-2.
2. Where is the Kaufman County Court at Law?
The Kaufman County Courthouse is located at 100 W. Mulberry Street, Kaufman, TX 75142. The County Court at Law is on the second floor, by the District Attorney's office.
3. What are the rules of the court?
These are important so pay attention. First, you must appear at each court setting. Your lawyer can not appear for you. You have to be there and check in with the bailiff, and sign a pass slip promising to return. Second, you have to dress approrpriately, no shorts etc. Third, turn off your cell phone in court. Fourth, you only get two changes to reset or pass your case before you must enter a plea of guilty, or set the case for trial. So don't waste any time, meet with your lawyer and make a game plan for your case, or you may end up on the trial docket. Fifth, if you do talk to Judge Jones, call him your honor or sir. You are expected to respect the court and the judge at all times. Finally, if you are going to plead guilty, you MUST have your court costs with you on the day of the plea. Court costs are separate from the fine you pay in a case and range from $250-$500, depending on the charge. DWI case have the most expensive court costs. You can get time to pay the fine off after you plea, but the court costs must be paid upfront.
4. I don't have a lawyer and I have a court date in County Court at Law. What should I do?
Start interviewing defense lawyers immediately. As I stated earlier, you don't get many resets in the County Court at Law. If you show up to court without a lawyer, you give yourself, and your attorney, less time to prepare your case. The judge may ask you how many lawyers you have interviewed and you want to have an answer for that question that isn't "zero".
If you can not afford a lawyer the judge will consider your application for a court appointed attorney.
Finally, you have the right to represent yourself, which is a horrible idea. Don't do it. Prosecutors love pro se defendants (those without an attorney), because they will agree to anything and know nothing about the law or how the system works.