How Long Does It Take to Get a Court Date for a Felony?
Published March 25, 2022
If you feel like the powers that be are dragging their heels on your case, then you’re not alone. Legal proceedings generally take time. In some cases, it may even drag on for years. But if you’re facing felony charges, you won’t really need to wait that long to get a court date.
Under the Sixth Amendment, criminal case defendants are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial. As such, a formal court trial for a felony case should take place within 60 days either after the defendant is arraigned, the case is reinstated, or where a mistrial is declared and an order for a new trial is granted.
However, the answer to “how long does it take to get a court date for a felony?” isn’t quite as simple.
For one, the defendant will have to appear before the judge even before the formal court trial begins. So technically, a trial isn’t the first court date in felony cases.
Besides, defendants can waive their right to speedy trial especially if they need more time to mount a good defense. In such cases, the formal court hearing may extend beyond the 60-day limit.
To help you better understand this better, we put together this quick guide.
When Do Felony Defendants Appear in Court?
After a suspect is arrested, they will have to go through various proceedings before a formal hearing can start. But not all of them will take place in court.
The initial appearance, for instance, is usually conducted in a detention facility via video conferencing. This is where the defendant is told about the charges filed against them as well as their rights.
Defendants will only be required to appear in court during the following:
The arraignment process is the defendant’s first formal court appearance following their arrest. This is where the court will:
- confirm your identity to ascertain that you are the correct individual charged with felony
- confirm the felony charges levied against you
- gives you a chance to take a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest)
If the defendant is required to be held in custody, they must be arraigned within 48 hours. This does not include weekends and holidays.
But if they aren’t kept in custody, the law provides that the arraignment must take place “without unnecessary delay”. In cases like this, the arraignment can take weeks or months. Though in Florida, the law requires that a defendant must be arraigned no later than 20 days after the initial appearance.
After the arraignment, the next time a defendant appears in court is during the pre-trial hearing. Note that this will only be held if the defendant pleaded not guilty during the arraignment.
The pre-trial hearing is where the prosecutor will prove that enough evidence exists to charge the defendant. It’s also where the date for the trial is set.
If the defendant is jailed, the pre-trial hearing must be conducted within 14 days after the initial appearance. But if they aren’t, this can extend up to 21 days.
Formal Court Trial
Once all the preliminary proceedings are done, a formal court trial will follow. This is the part many of us are familiar with as it’s often portrayed in movies and tv shows.
During the trial, both the prosecution and defense will submit their evidence and witnesses to prove their claim. The defendant and victims themselves may be called to testify too.
After all the evidence and witnesses are presented, the jury will confer to determine whether the defendant is guilty or not. For a conviction to happen, the jury’s verdict must be unanimous.
If found guilty, police officers will escort the defendant to prison. But if acquitted, the defendant walks out of the courtroom as a free person.
If the defendant pleaded guilty or if the jury finds them guilty, a separate sentencing hearing is usually scheduled.
This is where the defense attorney will plead for leniency. While the prosecutor will argue for a much harsher sentence.
Sentencing hearings are usually held within a few months after they’re convicted or have pleaded guilty. Though, in some cases, a defendant will have to wait for years before a sentencing hearing is scheduled.
How Long Do Felony Cases Take?
As I’ve said, legal proceedings usually take time. For felony cases, it’s not uncommon for the proceedings to drag on for several months at least. In some cases, it may even take years.
How long felony cases take generally depends on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s plea.
Remember that the jury will have to consider all evidence and hear witness statements from both sides. So the more complicated a case is, the longer the trial will drag on.
If the defendant enters a guilty plea early on, then there need not be a trial. This will significantly shorten a felony case’s timeframe. But if the defendant pushes for a trial, then expect the case to last for months or years.
(Related: A Quick Guide To The Age Of Consent By State)
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