The information in this blog is general, and is not a substitute for consulting with a lawyer concerning the facts and circumstances of your or a loved one’s case. Jurisdictions are not always consistent in the manner in which cases are processed and handled, and laws and procedures often change over time. For any legal matter, contact an experienced lawyer immediately.
Waiting to receive a court date is stressful. There are many instances in which a court date is in limbo, leaving the individual to question what to do next to avoid trouble down the road. Many choose to hire lawyers right away, which is an excellent way to protect themselves from unwanted surprises. However, hiring a lawyer may not immediately or always solve the problem.
There are many reasons for delay for criminal cases. One reason for delay that police officers many need additional time to conduct further investigations before issuing a ticket or seeking a warrant from a prosecutor’s office. In cases involving alleged drug possession, distribution, or driving while impaired by drugs a delay occurs in seeking confirmation from a laboratory as to the nature and the amount of the substance in question. The same is true for alleged drunk driving cases in which a blood draw occurs. It is not uncommon for laboratory delays to take months.
In many cases in which an expert is needed to examine evidence, delays are expected. Experts are needed in a variety of situations. For example, for computer related alleged crimes a expert is often needed to determine what data exists, or previously existed, on a computer, smart phone, or other device. Sometimes a medical expert is needed to determine the cause and intent behind a particular injury or harm sustained. In alleged crimes involving children, sometimes experts need to forensically interview a child, to try and ensure that a child’s statement reflects what actually happened instead of being the product of suggestion. Anytime there is an expert, delays are expected.
Sometimes delays happen based upon the volume of evidence and paperwork that law enforcement needs to obtain and sift through. Complex cases require a lot of time and thought. The issuance and response to subpoenas also takes time. The review of subpoenaed information takes time. In some cases, one lead leads to another lead, which leads to another lead.
Delay can occur because police officers and detectives need time to interview witnesses. Witnesses are sometimes hard to find, and sometimes they are reluctant to cooperate once found. Sometimes a prosecutor may direct police officers and detectives to gather additional evidence before deciding on a charge or charges.
Sometimes a delay occurs because of the time needed by prosecutors and courts to process the paperwork. A delay can occur for unforeseen circumstances (such as COVID-19). In rare instances, files get lost by the police, prosecution, and/or Court which results in additional delays.
There are occasions when a detective and/or prosecutor will make a determination that there is not enough evidence, and/or it is not in the interests of justice, to pursue a criminal charge. For Defendants, this is great news, but there is a lot of stress in not knowing the outcome. A lawyer can help gain clarity on the intentions of the police and law enforcement.
How long is the delay for criminal cases? There is no precise formula. A person does not have a speedy trial right to get arrested. Generally, speedy trial rights attach only with the filing of a charge or charges. Generally, the only limitation on delay is an applicable statute of limitations. The length of time for the statute of limitations can vary based upon the nature of the criminal or civil case involved. For some types of criminal cases in some jurisdictions, there is no statute of limitations (for example, murder allegations and some allegations of rape frequently do not have a statute of limitations).
If a ticket (civil infraction or criminal charge) is issued, how can I obtain a court date? If you hire a lawyer, a lawyer will obtain the court date for you. If you have not hired a lawyer yet, the ticket itself should have instructions in how to obtain the court date. If you do not have a lawyer, follow the instructions that appear on the ticket. Once a ticket is issued, do not delay. Delay in properly addressing a civil infraction can lead to a default judgment, and for driving related offenses the imposition of any applicable points. Delay in properly addressing a criminal case can lead to the issuance of a bench warrant. The failure to timely address a ticket can in many instances lead to the suspension of driving privileges. Many court websites (not all) have the ability to look up information online. This will often (but not always) provide information of active case statuses and warrants.
If a ticket is not issued, how can I obtain a court date? Your lawyer will help you obtain a court date. Follow your lawyer’s advice. If you do not have a lawyer, you can attempt to contact the court with that has jurisdiction over the case and ask about a court date. You also have the ability to contact the law enforcement agency investigating the case and ask. However you should bear in mind that any statement made can be used against you. You have a 5th Amendment privilege not to make statements that could be used against you. This is one of the reasons why you have an attorney to represent you in the first place. It should be noted that sometimes law enforcement is not forthcoming with lawyers and individuals while a case is under investigation. Law enforcement is not required to provide any type of discovery, prior to the issuance of charges, while an active investigation is underway.
Sometimes a law enforcement agency will send a letter, or make a call to inform an individual about a pending charge. Often the letter will instruct an individual to turn themselves into the police department for processing on or before a particular date. It is advisable to have a lawyer represent you at this point in time if you can afford legal counsel. Why? First, there is the risk of self incrimination. Second, sometimes there is a delay between when an individual turns themselves into police, and when the individual is actually arraigned on the charge. An individual can be held in jail for days before an arraignment occurs. Arraignment is a legal proceeding before a magistrate or Judge in which the charge and possible penalty are read, a plea is entered, and bond is determined or a sentence imposed (if a guilty plea is allowed and entered by the Defendant). Sometimes legal counsel can help you avoid a lengthy delay between booking and arraignment. Third, Legal counsel gives the Defendant the best opportunity to obtain a reasonable bond amount and reasonable bond conditions at arraignment.
In many instances law enforcement does not send a letter or makes a call to inform an individual of charges. Sometimes law enforcement will show up at a person’s home, school, or place of employment, or other location to make an arrest. Sometimes an arrest warrant is issued and placed in lien. This means that when the individual is pulled over for an unrelated traffic offense, or otherwise has police contact, the arrest warrant pops up and the person is often arrested on that warrant. Having legal representation early on helps reduce the chances of this happening.
Some Courts (not all) will mail an individual notice of any pending court dates. If you do not receive a court date, be proactive and call your attorney (if you have legal representation) or otherwise contact the Court and inquire about a court date.
For criminal cases involving tickets, and also cases not involving tickets, the individual will eventually need to be arraigned on the charge or charges. For individuals with legal representation, some courts will allow the arraignment to be waived by their lawyer. If the arraignment is waived, a pretrial date or other court proceeding is set by the court.
Immigration Cases. For immigration cases, always stay in touch with your lawyer. If you do not have an immigration lawyer, you should hire one. An individual can also check on a case status through an automated telephone system that requires entry of an A number (1-800-898-7180). Failure to appear in immigration court as directed can lead to an order of removal, immigration detention, and limitations on the ability to seek immigration relief in the future. Your best bet is to retain an immigration lawyer immediately concerning any notice to appear in immigration court. The recommended law firm for all immigration cases is Hilf & Hilf, PLC.
For civil litigation cases, always call your lawyer and/or the court with jurisdiction over your case. Any individual who is served with legal paperwork, or otherwise receives the same, should not delay in addressing the issue. Hire a lawyer immediately. Failure to timely and properly address a civil lawsuit can lead to the imposition of a default judgment, and the imposition of other sanctions/penalties/financial consequences related to the litigation. If you want to pursue any type of civil litigation, do not delay in contacting a lawyer. Delay can lead to the inability to pursue certain causes of action based upon case law, statutory law, and statutes of limitation. Hiring an experienced lawyer is your best chance of obtaining a great outcome.