1. A court officer calls out a docket number. This is a unique identification number that every case gets. The court officer also calls out the name of the case. He will say “People versus” and then the name of the defendant. People means the government. A prosecutor (PROSS-e-kyu-tor) takes the government’s side against the defendant. The prosecutor is called an ADA, which stands for Assistant District Attorney.
2. A court officer brings the defendant into the courtroom.
3. The judge asks the defendant to waive the reading (wayv the REED-ing) of his or her rights and the charges. Charges means the crimes the defendant has been accused of. Waive the reading means agree to not have the rights and charges read. This is to save time. The defendant can say no and ask to have them read.
4. The judge asks the defendant to enter a plea (plee). Enter a plea means say “guilty” or “not guilty.” Guilty means responsible for the crime.
5. The judge asks if the ADA has any notices (NO-tis-es). Notices are evidence that the ADA will use to prove that the defendant is guilty. To save time, ADA’s usually do not read out the actual words from the law. Instead, they just say the numbers and letters from the law that the information comes from. Here are some of the numbers and letters you may hear an ADA say:
710.30(1)(a) or seven-ten-thirty-one-A. This means the defendant said something about the crime that the ADA plans to use against the defendant at the trial.
710.30(1)(b) or seven-ten-thirty-one-B. This means that the ADA has a statement from a witness that the defendant was nearby around the time the crime took place.
190.50 or one-ninety-fifty. This means the ADA plans to take the case to a grand jury. A grand jury decides if a person should be charged with a felony (FELL-o-nee). A felony is a crime that is punishable by more than one year in jail.
6. The ADA can ask the judge to set a certain amount of bail or to not release the defendant at all. If the judge sets bail, the defendant (or a person on the defendant’s behalf) must give the court money to get out of jail. The defendant’s lawyer can argue against bail and to release the defendant on his or her own recognizance (re-COG-ni-zens), also called ROR. This means the defendant can go home without paying money, but must show up in court on the date the judge says. The defendant’s lawyer can also argue for a reasonable amount of bail.
7. The judge decides whether or not to set bail. The Criminal Justice Agency, or CJA, interviews the defendant before he or she sees the judge. The CJA gives the judge a report to help the judge decide what to do about bail. The judge can also choose to remand
the defendant. Here, remand means not set bail and send the defendant to jail until the trial. (For more information on bail, see LIFT’s "Bail
8. The judge sets a date for the next court appearance.