What exactly takes place at a final pretrial date? Is it possible for the case to be dismissed/acquitted?
5 attorney answers
Most often times, you just tell the court if it will go to trial or not. It may be plead out at that time and done as a plea and sentencing. Some judges want all trial filings by then. No, it is not likely to simply be dismissed. You would need to set a motion to dismiss hearing.
I agree with Attorney Jensen's answer. Additionally, in Milwaukee County many courts set their final pretrial far in advance of the trial date because trial slots are precious commodities. That way the Court knows that they can take the case off the trial calendar and has a better idea of what will or won't go to trial on that date. The final pretrial is also the date that witness lists, motions in limine, proposed jury instructions, etc. need to be filed to give both sides a reasonable opportunity to anticipate who will be called at trial and what to expect.
The common understanding in most courts in Milwaukee County is that it's fine to set a case for trial if you're not certain it will be a plea, but if you're going to plea it has to be done at the final pretrial or the State gets to revoke its offer and force you to plead to everything in the complaint as is if you change your mind on the day of trial (though many DAs will let you plea to the offer anyway). In fact, some judges have gone so far as to set a trial date but make clear that if you don't inform the Court within 30 days of a desire to change things to a plea date they will not accept a plea on the day of trial; though they can't really stop you from pleading to the charges as they are, that's the kind of thing that results in the Court giving you a harsher sentence for "wasting the Court's time."
The purpose of a final pretrial is for the parties to inform the court whether the case is ready for trial, and if a settlement is reached, the guilty plea may be entered on that date. The final pretrial will be set well ahead of the trial date when the parties inform the court that it is likely that the case will resolve with a guilty plea, or if it is anticipated that there will be difficult legal issues to resolve prior to trial.
This answer is for informational purposes only. By answering this question, no attorney/client relationship is created. Although the legal information is accurate, it may not be appropriate for your situation. The best way to handle any legal problem is to seek the advice of an attorney.
"Final pre-trial conferences" will likely differ somewhat from county to county. In most WI counties I've worked in, this conference is where a possible settlement is discussed and the case will then be scheduled for a plea and sentencing hearing if resolved, or scheduled for a motion hearing or trial (often with an additional status conference) if there are still issues to resolve. Sometimes a case will even be rescheduled for a status hearing/conference without a trial date if discovery issues are still pending.
While it is possible for a case to be dismissed at a pre-trial confernce, it isn't likely. Solid challenges to the charges are raised early on with sufficiency challenges to the charging documents.. The next step is typically addressing suppression motions, where there's grounds for such challenges. After that, you've got the jury to determine guilt or innocence. It's very rare for a prosecutor to even consider outright dismissal at a pre-trial hearing, without being convinced that there are strong legal grounds to suppress critical evidence in a case.
Normally the pretrial conference is when the parties will discuss and inform the court of what they expect to happen at trial. Mainly, the number of witnesses, number of days needed for trial, deadlines for any pretrial motions, expert's reports, and any issues that may still be up in the air. This allows the court to determine where on their schedule they can fit the trial.
As to why the trial is 2 months away - Courts are busy. Keep in mind that over 95% of cases never make it to trial. That means there are a large number of cases and issues the courts are dealing with other than trials. Every day there are motions coming in and hearings to be held. That's not counting the time a judge and his staff need to actually decide the issues before them since many issues need research and a good understanding of a case. Simply put, a court's schedule is very hectic and sometimes trials need to be scheduled a bit down the line.
This answer is for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship.