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About What to Expect on a Court Date

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Kush Arora.

What can someone who is facing criminal charges expect on their court date?

Kush Arora: What to expect on your court date is a little bit different, depending on what you are charged with and where. If you find yourself with a felony charge, you are probably not going to be surprised on your court date. Felony charges are spaced out over a long period of time. There is usually a lot of discussion that takes place between your attorney and the State’s Attorney’s Office, so that if there is some kind of hearing or trial that’s going to take place, it’s usually something all parties are prepared for well in advance.

District Court cases, which are usually misdemeanor cases in Maryland, are a little bit different. Most of the information in those cases becomes available on the day of trial. A defendant can expect for a case to be scheduled and then to receive their notification to come to court at 8:30 or 8:45 in the morning, but sometimes not have their case called until 11:00, 12:00, 2:00, 3:00, or 4:00 in the afternoon.
Based on the number of cases that are scheduled for that day, and how long it takes to get through a docket in a particular county, when a case is called can be unpredictable. At about 9:00 in the morning, the judge takes the bench and the prosecutor calls all of the preliminary matters on the docket, which could be matters where the prosecution intends to dismiss charges or the cases are getting postponed. After that come the pleas, where people have made some kind of a deal with the government and are entering a plea of guilty to a particular charge. Usually, after those are wrapped up, any cases in which the prosecution and the defendant cannot come to an agreement and the prosecution has not decided to dismiss the case will be called for trial.
Usually, the cases that are misdemeanors are called for a “bench trial,” where the judge is the finder of fact and makes a decision about whether a person is guilty or not guilty of their charges. Usually, trials in District Court can take anywhere from 30 minutes for a one-witness trial on a shoplifting, to several hours in a situation where there are multiple police officers involved in an investigation that are all testifying about a particular case. It can sometimes be a very long day for a defendant and their attorney.