Your Criminal Court Date in Duval County.
You have found yourself in the unfortunate position of having a criminal court date in Duval County. Perhaps you have never been through anything like this before. You may have a public defender assigned to your case or you were able to get enough money for a private criminal defense attorney. If this is your first time ever dealing with anything like this, it can be overwhelming and highly stressful. Outside of lawyers, most people have no clue what really happens at an arraignment or pre-trial date. Most people are nervous about just going into the courthouse and where to sit. They are also afraid of having to say anything or be questioned by the Judge.
Hopefully this post can alleviate a little of your worries.
First Thing at the Courthouse
When you arrive at the Duval County Courthouse you will have to come in through the front of the building. Depending on the time of day, morning's being the busiest, you will wait in line to get checked through security. Be prepared to open any bags or purses. Don't bring any lighters, matches, scissors or anything else sharp. I please don't forget to take any weed or paraphernalia out of your bags or pockets. You would be surprised at the amount of people who get busted coming through security with contraband.
After the security check, you will make your way into the lobby. There will be escalators on your right and elevators a little down on your left. If you don't know what courtroom you are in, but you know the Judge's name, you can check on the screens placed in the lobby that will tell you the courtroom number for each Judge in Duval County.
Once you make it to your floor and courtroom, there will be a man or woman checking people in to the room. Be patient and polite, they have a lot of people to deal with and they have to do things the way the Judge wants them to be done. You will be told where to sit, either the left or right side in the courtroom.
If you have private counsel, you will most likely meet them at the courtroom and they will advise you what to expect, however, if you have a public defender, you may not have had the chance to speak to them yet.
Take your seat and wait. Most courtrooms will require that you take your hats off and men will need to tuck their shirts in. As you will see, most mornings are pretty packed and chaotic in the courtrooms. You will see numerous lawyers wondering around and talking to one another, you may recognize your own public defender. Hopefully, your attorney will speak with you prior to court starting or at least prior to your case being called.
Speak Wisely and Know When to be Quiet
If you have an attorney and you are in court for an arraignment or pre-trial, you will not be required to say anything. Furthermore, these dates are not set up for you to argue your case and to speak about what may or may not have happened. Anything you say in open court is on the record and can be used against you later. I have seen people place themselves at the scene of a crime, because they wanted to argue to the Judge that they didn't do it. Little did they know that one; the Judge will not dismiss their charge because they said they didn't do it, and two; the prosecutor now has them admitting to being at the scene, which they will use in a trial against that person.
During these court dates, the Judge is more like a referee, he/she is there to make sure a case is moving along and to schedule any future court dates. If you have an issue to argue, a motion should be filed and the Judge will hear your argument at a set time.
Always Be Polite
These court dates should be more or less pretty simple on the part of the client. If you are required to be there, just be there on time, dress well and be polite. Court is not the place to be cool or act like you don't give a damn. You better care about it and you better care about what the Judge thinks about you. Show respect and most Judges will return in kind. Let your attorney do the talking and if you are not satisfied with your attorney, you can bring that up to the Judge, just remember to be respectful and polite when doing it. If you don't want to say anything, you shouldn't have to.
I know this post just scratches the surface on all the issues with arraignment and pre-trials, but hopefully it will help a little.