San Antonio Criminal Lawyer: What Happens at Your First Court Date?
Being charged with a crime in San Antonio or the surrounding area can be a frightening experience, especially if you are unfamiliar with the criminal justice system. Most people in this situation are unsure what the process is like that lies ahead. In this blog post, we will explore what happens at your first court date, as well as provide you with some valuable information about the criminal process.
The Criminal Process
The criminal process begins with an arrest. You will be taken into custody
and transported to the nearest county jail if you are arrested. Once there, you will be booked, which includes having your fingerprints and photograph taken, as well as being informed of your charges and bail.
After you have been booked, you may be released on bail or remain in custody until your trial. If you are released on bail, you will be required to post a certain amount of money as collateral to ensure that you appear in court for all future hearings.
In most instances, you will be given your first date. Although sometimes you may be given information about the court you are assigned to and told to contact them for your court date.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, formal charges in the form of a document called an “information” will likely be filed right away, which kicks off your court process. In the case of a felony, your case will be forwarded to the district attorney who will present your case to the grand jury.
A grand jury is a group of citizens who are tasked with determining whether there is enough evidence to bring charges against a defendant. The prosecutor presents evidence to the grand jury, which then decides whether to issue an indictment. Grand jury proceedings are conducted in secret, and the defendant and their attorney are not present.
If the grand jury determines that there is enough evidence to bring charges, they will issue an indictment. The indictment is a formal charging document that outlines the charges against the defendant. After the indictment is filed in a felony case or an information in a misdemeanor case, the case will then be set for an arraignment hearing.
An arraignment hearing is the first court appearance after your arrest. At this hearing, the judge will inform you of the charges against you and ask how you plead. It is important to understand that the purpose of the arraignment hearing is not to determine guilt or innocence but rather to ensure that you understand the charges against you and to set the conditions of your release.
It is expected that you will plead not guilty at your first court date. Pleading not guilty does not mean that you did not commit the crime, but rather that you are denying the charges against you and that the prosecution will need to prove their case in court. By pleading not guilty, you are also ensuring that you have the opportunity to discuss your case with your attorney and to explore your legal options.
It is crucial that you appear at your first court date. Failure to appear can result in a bail jumping charge and a warrant being issued for your arrest. It is important to communicate with your attorney if there are any issues that may prevent you from appearing in court. Your attorney can work with you to address any issues and ensure that you do not miss any court appearances.
At the arraignment hearing, you will be given new court dates. Some courts immediately set the case with a trial date, while others set the case for initial pre-trial hearings to hear preliminary matters. Regardless, your attorney will explain the process and your options about what the next steps are going to be.
The criminal process can be a long and arduous one. Depending on the severity of the charges, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years to reach trial. There may be many court dates and at most of them, it will appear as though not much is happening with your case. Most of what happens at these court dates, occurs between the attorney and the prosecutors, and not in open court in front of the judge. It is important to be patient and to trust that your attorney is doing everything possible to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
San Antonio Criminal Defense Attorney Brad Thornton
At Thornton Criminal Defense, we understand that being charged with a crime can be a terrifying experience. We are here to help guide you through the criminal justice system and to ensure that your rights are protected. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation. We will work tirelessly to defend your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact us today at 210-439-5627 to schedule your free consultation.