When I was an Kaufman County ADA I was assigned to Kaufman County Court at Law. It’s where I cut my teeth in K-town, and it’s a court I still enjoy trying cases in. Kaufman has two County Courts at law, both courts hear misdemeanor cases and certain felonies (felony DWI and state jail dope cases). County Court at Law also hears civil cases, CPS, and juvenile criminal matters.
Here is what you need to know about the Kaufman County Court at Law if you have an adult criminal case.
1. You always have to appear.
Really, you have to show up if you are a defendant, every time. I know that in Dallas your lawyer can appear for you, but this isn’t Dallas. It’s Kaufman, and we have different rules here. Court starts at 8:30 and you are expected to check in with the bailiff. There will be a line out front for the metal detector which may delay you some, but if you get to the court around 8:30 you’ll be ok.
2. Don’t show up to court drunk.
I’m not sure why, but CCL seems to have more defendants arrested for being intoxicated in court than any other. I haven’t had a client arrested for being drunk in court, yet. I pity these defendants, but I understand why they are found in contempt. You can’t be drunk in court. It’s just a bad idea. However, in my experience if someone is drunk at 9AM it’s because they are an alcoholic, and being drunk in court is a choice they make because the cost of not being drunk (withdrawal/DTs) is much higher.
If you have an addition problem the time to get help is before you finalize a criminal case. You don’t want to wait until you are placed on probation to address your substance abuse issues. Kaufman county has taken a more compassionate approach to addiction recently (we now have a DWI, substance abuse, and mental health probation program). Tackling addiction is difficult, tackling addiction while on probation can is even harder.
3. Don’t waste court settings. Hire a lawyer ASAP.
In general, you can reset a misdemeanor 2-3 times before you are going to be set for a dispositive (i.e. trial) setting. If you are really shopping for an attorney the court will accomodate you. However, you should be prepared to tell the judge who you have talked to, and what fee they have quoted. Belief it or not, defendants in the past have told the judge they are looking for a lawyer, and have not actually met with an attorney. That never goes over well. Trust me on this.
4. If you can’t afford a lawyer, apply for a public defender
In court defendants are handed a sheet explaining their rights. You are admonished on your right to hire an attorney, apply for court appointed counsel, or represent yourself (BAD IDEA). If you can’t afford a lawyer check the box requesting court appointed counsel. You will be sent to meet with the indigent defense coordinator who will determine if you meet the standard for indigency).
5. Bring your court costs if you want to plea.
If you decide to enter a plea bargain (not guilty or no contest) you must have court costs ready when you enter your plea. Court costs can be difficult to calculate, fortunately the clerk will have the total and your attorney should be able to let you know the amount. You have to bring the full amount of court costs or you may not be allowed to plea. Court costs range from $254 to over $450 for DWI cases.