How many times will I have to go to court?
A common question I get from people I talk to is "how many times will I need to go to court?" A typical misdemeanor case will require 2-3 court appearances.
Why can't we get this done at the first court appearance?Usually, we don't wrap up a case at the first court appearance because the defense usually does not have all of the State's evidence at that point. Unless the case is to be dismissed, to resolve the case at the first appearance without seeing any evidence would be negligent. It is not recommended that you resolve your case unless you have had an opportunity to review the State's evidence, which would include police reports, squad videos, audio tapes of any interviews, photographs, sworn statements, BCA tests, etc. There are a few exceptions, however.
Diversion and De Novo CasesIf the case is one that is eligible for a program known as Diversion or De Novo, then it may be alright to resolve at the first appearance. These programs are designed for first time, non-violent offenders of specific crimes like shoplifting and small drug cases (usually marijuana). The prosecutor would have to agree to the diversion, which would place the defendant on a type of probation for a year while the person performs some community service hours and remains law abiding. After the year, if all goes well, the charges would be dismissed and vacated from the person's record. If the case is one that can be settled because the facts are in favor of the defendant and even the prosecutor agrees up front that the State has a weak case, then one or two court appearances will usually be enough. For those cases that have an issue (i.e., the stop was invalid, lack of probable cause, right to speak to an attorney was not vindicated, Datamaster test result was not valid, defendant was coerced into doing something, Miranda issues, and others), a contested omnibus hearing may be necessary.
Omnibus HearingAn omnibus hearing (sometimes combined with a Rasmussen or Florence hearing) is a hearing to determine whether the State has enough evidence to take the case to trial. At this hearing, the Court will listen to testimony and consider other evidence to determine whether the State has met its burden to bring these charges to trial. At this pretrial hearing, the Court can also rule on the validity of test results, Miranda issues, stop issues, probable cause issues, attorney privilege issues, witness identification issues, and the like. The Court will either allow the case to proceed to trial, dismiss the case, or suppress evidence. For those cases that cannot be resolved at any time during the pretrial stage, trial is typically the only option. Most misdemeanor trials will take 1-3 days to try. For any questions regarding your rights or whether your case is one that should settle or do to trial, feel free to contact Criminal Defense Attorney Kevin DeVore at 651-312-6519 or www.devorelawoffice.com.