Step 2: PRE-TRIAL COURT DATES
There will be at least one, and sometimes several court appearances. The accused party’s appearance at these court settings is usually mandatory, and occur before the actual trial. Most of the courts call these settings “No-Issue” settings. It gives the attorney time to review the prosecutor’s file to take notes from the police officer’s report and see the evidence against the client. These settings also allow the attorney time to investigate the case more thoroughly. Sometimes, the prosecutor’s file is missing certain items of evidence that is crucial for the defense to see and or review before setting the case for trial.
Next, there is typically a “pre-trial motion” hearing that follow the “No-Issue” setting. “Pre-trial motions” are usually filed by the attorney and presented at this hearing. Sometimes, there may be a special motion hearing date, where “Motion to Suppress” are presented to the court and argued. This is a motion that attempts to suppress some type of illegally obtained evidence or illegally obtained statement made by the accused to the police.
There may be a “Trial Call” or an “Announcement” appearance shortly before the trial to confirm that all sides are ready for trial. A plea bargain can usually be entered at any “pre-trial” court dates depending on local rules and the particular judge involved. Most of the time such discussions are conducted when all parties are in Court at counsel table before or during court or in the back halls of the courtroom. If an accused decides to accept a plea bargain, their attorney will fill out a “Plea of Guilty, Waiver of Rights and Stipulation Agreement” form. This form specifies all the rights the accused gives up by accepting the plea bargain, and usually outlines the plea bargain agreement that the accused, the defense attorney and the prosecutor have agreed to in the case.
Keep in mind, that the Judge CANNOT reduce a DWI to some other type of offense on his own, the prosecutor must recommend and charge the individual differently prior to going before the Judge to enter into such a plea bargain. Moreover, all plea bargains must be agreed to by the Judge.