What Happens at a Status Hearing in a Criminal Case?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Nov 07, 2020 | California Law

Last Updated on December 18, 2020

There are many steps in the process of going to trial for a criminal matter in California. One of the court hearings that you must attend is a readiness conference. Readiness conferences are also referred to as status hearings or status conferences.

The court may set multiple status hearings if it deems them necessary for the progress of the case. These hearings are used in both misdemeanor cases and felony cases.

Progress Hearings in Misdemeanor Cases

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the court schedules a Trial Readiness Conference (TRC) after your arraignment. You, your criminal defense lawyer, and the prosecuting attorney must attend the status hearing.

At the hearing, the attorneys exchange information about the case. The exchange of information is known as discovery. You have the right to know what evidence the state intends to present in court to prove your guilt.

Your lawyer and the prosecutor may discuss plea deals or other ways to dispose of your case without going to trial. The court also asks about the readiness of the case for trial.

Depending on your case, the court could schedule numerous TRCs before your criminal case comes up for trial. The purpose of these status hearings is to ensure that the case continues to move through the system, and the parties are actively preparing for trial.

A Trial Readiness Conference is held in cases involving drug crimes, resisting arrest, sex crimes, and many other crimes charged as misdemeanors. If you are facing felony charges, you will attend a Felony Settlement Conference (FSC).

What Happens at a Felony Settlement Conference?

A Felony Settlement Conference is similar to a Trial Readiness Conference. However, the FSC takes place before the Preliminary Hearing.

At the hearing, your lawyer and the prosecutor exchange information about your case and discuss ways to dispose of the case before trial, including plea deals. As with a TRC, the court might schedule several status hearings in a felony case to ensure the parties continue to prepare for trial, engage in discovery, and continue to discuss a resolution to the case.

Examples of felony cases in which one or more FSCs would be scheduled include felony DUI cases, drug trafficking, rape, and some theft crimes.

What Happens if I Do Not Have a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

If you’ve been arrested and do not have a criminal defense lawyer, you appear at the status hearing pro se. Pro se means that you are representing yourself against the criminal charges.

You have the right to legal counsel. If you cannot afford to hire a private lawyer, you can request that the court appoint a defense attorney to represent you.

We strongly urge you to consider hiring a defense lawyer of your choosing.

Public defenders have numerous cases and might not have experience handling the criminal charges you face. The public defender’s office may not have the resources or time to investigate your case and develop a strong defense to the criminal charges.

Advantages of Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Hiring a criminal defense attorney has numerous advantages including:

  • A defense lawyer understands the purpose of court hearings, including status hearings
  • A criminal attorney explains the charges against you and your legal rights
  • Your lawyer handles all paperwork and filings with the court
  • A defense attorney investigates the charges against you to determine if your civil rights were violated
  • Your lawyer gathers evidence, interviews witnesses, and researches laws and statutes to develop a defense strategy
  • An experienced criminal defense lawyer has extensive knowledge of the legal system, laws, and the local courts
  • Your lawyer might be able to negotiate a more favorable plea deal than you could negotiate on your own
  • Defense lawyers understand how jurors might view your case and can provide advice about whether to accept a plea agreement or go to trial

Law enforcement officers and the prosecutor are convinced you are guilty. In their eyes, you are not innocent until proven guilty. Their sole goal is to obtain a guilty verdict.

Therefore, you need someone on your side who believes you are innocent. Even if you are guilty, you need someone fighting to ensure that you are treated fairly and your legal rights are not violated.

You have the right to the presumption of innocence until the state proves you are guilty. A criminal defense lawyer forces the state to follow the rules and prove each legal element required to find you guilty of a crime.

Make sure that you have someone on your side who will fight for you until every possible legal avenue for a defense is exhausted.