What Happens At Your First Court Appearance

By | January 21, 2011

Clients often ask me, “What is going to happen the first time I go to court?” The answer is: Just show up in the courtroom and when the judge or court staff calls your name stand up and say, “Here I am.”

In Travis County, if you are charged with a misdemeanor the very first setting that you have on your bond is to show up in Room 1.300. Many clients who have not been to court before believe that on that day they will be in front of the judge. I can see why you would think that, but it is not true. Your bond only requires you to show up in Room 1.300 of the Travis County Criminal Justice Center on a certain date at a certain time. Room 1.300 is simply the court administration office. There is no judge there. There is no bailiff.

The staff in that office keeps track of whether or not formal charges have been brought against you in court. Once formal charges have been filed, then the court administration staff will tell you or your lawyer what court your case is assigned to and when you are expected to be there. One of the things that I do for my clients is to call the court administration office, tell the staff there that I represent them, and get a reset date for you. My office keeps track of that until your case is set to go before a real judge.

The very first time that you are required to be in a real court (if you don’t have a lawyer) is called an “announcement” setting if for a misdemeanor, or a “designation” setting if for a felony. They have different names but the same purpose: In a County Court (misdemeanors) you announce who your attorney is; in a District Court (felonies) you designate who your attorney is.

In felony court, your lawyer will probably take some notes on the State’s file. No matter whether your case is a felony or a misdemeanor, your lawyer will tell you what the next date is to show up again.