what to expect in court
Court terms defined:
- Arraignment hearing- A hearing in which a person charged with a crime is brought before the court to plead either guilty or not guilty, and is advised of their constitutional rights under the law.
- Disposition - A final decision made by the judge that ends the criminal proceeding
- Charge – A formal accusation filed by the prosecution that a specific person has committed a specific crime. Also referred to as “pressing charges.”
- Violation- The smallest offense in which a law is broken, usually includes just a fine
- Misdemeanor- A crime that is less serious than a felony, and for which the punishment can include a monetary fine, community service hours, and in rare cases, up to 12 months of jail
- Felony- A serious crime punishable by state or federal prison time.
- Plea agreement- An agreement where the accused and the prosecutor work out a compromise of a disposition subject to court approval. It usually involves the defendant’s plea of guilty to a lesser offense in return for a lighter sentence.
- Conditional discharge- a sentence passed by a court whereby the defendant is not punished, provided they comply with certain conditions. After these conditions are met, the discharge becomes absolute. If the conditions are not met, the defendant is re-sentenced.
Steps to follow if you are charged:
- Study your court ticket- were you charged with a violation, misdemeanor, or felony and what are the consequences of your charge(s)? If you face serious charges, consider representation by a lawyer or D.A.
- Meet with the conduct coordinator- discuss what to expect in court and any punishments on campus, such as workshops or probation.
- Fulfill your requirements (workshops, etc) before your arraignment and get proof of attendance!
- Attend your arraignment- this is where you plead guilty or not guilty. Be respectful of the judge. Give him proof of attendance for the mandatory workshops, etc. in which you attended.
- Attend your disposition- this is where the judge tells you his final decision on what charges you have, and what consequences you will face. Be respectful of the judge and grateful if he reduces your charges. Obey any mandatory court orders (such as community service) and plan on never having to go back to court again!
Tips in court:
- Get there early: oftentimes, the sooner you arrive, the earlier your name is called and the sooner you will be able to leave. Also, it shows professionalism.
- Dress appropriately: make sure you look respectable; wear appropriate clothes that represent you in a professional manner
- Be respectful: Address the judge with “Judge ______” or “Your Honor”. Do not speak out of turn or argue, speak clearly and confidently, maintain eye contact, and most importantly, be honest!
- Come prepared: make sure you have your court ticket (the paper the police officer handed you) and any proof of attendance that you are in compliance with the college with mandatory workshops (Alcohol workshop, Party Smart, Drug workshop, LAUNCH). Bring some form of ID, your resume and/or letters of support (this may fare well with the judge, especially if this is your first offense).