The longer the recession goes on the more unfamiliar lawyers I see on Kaufman criminal cases. Here are a few quick tips for the noobs.
1. Your client always has to appear, with one exception (first setting in CC2). Kaufman isn’t Dallas and a lawyer appearing sans client is not the norm.
In extreme/emergency situations you can it’s possible to reset a case without a client present (think ER). However, you will want to call the court before the day of the hearing and bring some documentation of your client’s situation.
2. OPEN FILES! Discovery is a breeze. Simply call the DA (972.932.4331 ext 4) and ask for discovery to be printed. Or send a rep letter/discovery request. Discovery will be left up front for you to pick. DVDs are $5.
3. Pass, Pass, Plea or Trial. In misdemeanor courts you generally get 2 passes and then you have to set the case for something dispositive (plea/trial/pre trial). Exceptions are usually made for misdemeanor cases with companion felonies.
4. Trial settings mean trial. In Dallas multiple trial settings are not uncommon. In Kaufman only 1-4 cases set for jury trial each week. The odds are very high that your case will go to trial on the first trial setting. Sometimes a reset will be necessary for the breath test operator etc, but don’t count on it. If you want a continuance make sure and file a motion. If you don’t have a witness available the judge may attach (arrest) that witness.
5. Pre trial diversion- In Dallas this is called a “memo agreement”. Kaufman has a limited program (and much more difficult) for dismissing cases without the necessity of deferred probation. It’s usually 6 months for a misdemeanor, or 1-2 years for a felony. PTD is a little different in each court so ask your prosecutor for details.
6. Docket days are important. Feel free to call, email, or visit your prosecutor during the week. However, it’s common to discuss the case and plea offers in court.
7. Pleading a misdemeanor? BRING COURT COSTS. Your client is expected to pay 100% of their court costs on the day of the plea. If you can bring the fine and court costs sometimes community service hours will be cut, or the fine may be reduced. If your client can’t pay on the day of the plea they MAY be given an additional 30 days to bring CC. If not they may be reset for another plea date.
8. Examining trials are pretty rare. It’s hard to get them set quickly and if you do file for one your client will find himself indicted at the next grand jury.
9. Be on time, but know when on time is. Each court has it’s own time for hearings. Felony courts are at 9:00 or 1:30. CC1 is 8:30 or 1:30. CC2 is 9:45 or 2:00pm. In the 86th you have to “sign in” to speak with the DA. If you don’t get there early you may the 12th lawyer on the list and have to wait an hour to speak with Brian or Cameron.
10. Bond reductions- It’s preferred that you ask your ADA for an agreed bond reduction before filing a motion to reduce bail. The first question a clerk will ask you when filing a writ or bond reduction is “Have you spoken with the DA about this?”
I know that you have every right to file a motion on behalf of your client, but this is local practice. Besides, more often than not (especially on state jail dope) you can get an agreed reduction with a plea rec thrown in for good measure.
11. BBQ or Mexican? Culinary options are quite limited in K-Town. Stevie’s BBQ on the Square is my favorite (it’s also ten yards from my office). There are a number of local Mexican restaurants, none of which are bad, most of which are good, so feel free to explore. South of 175 are the chains- McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Denny’s and Chicken Express.