How Often Do I Have To Go To Court?

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Good evening and welcome to Florida Criminal Law TV. As we do a series of shorts that after broadcast are going to go on our website as well as our YouTube channel and you are free to cruise it and look for questions that pertain to your situation or if you are just curious, learn about Florida Criminal Law, my favorite subject, the only area that I practice. And my name is Stephen G. Cobb, by the way. I have been practicing criminal defense law for a very long period of time, that is all I do. And for today’s filming, this is going to be our last question but do not worry, we are going to have a whole series of your end-user questions because I have been overwhelmed by the response we have gotten since we started putting Florida Criminal Law TV online. And so, thank you very much.

I am thrilled that so many people are interested and looking for information, are curious and most of all, I think the reason people are asking these questions is they do not want to make their case worse, which I am all in favor of because so often in life when people are in the minefield of Florida Criminal law, instead of hiring an expert and having a team help them carefully go through the minefield without stepping on a mine and blowing their lives up, people are asking questions and that is good.

So, today’s final question is going to be “How often do I have to go to court?” And the answer is I have no clue. I do not know anything about your case. I do not know if it is federal or a state, I do not know if it is a misdemeanor or a felony, I do not know if you are going to have a motion to suppress hearings where you will have to go to court, and I do not know if it is one of those cases where we can get several continuances by written paperwork without you appearing. So, basically what we try to do with the law firm is the team is very mindful that if you are out on bail and you have got a criminal case, whether it is what is considered a minor crime, frankly from my perspective, if you can go to jail for 60 days, there is nothing minor about that but they are actually called by the legislature with a straight face, minor crimes, 60 days is not minor to anybody or a felony. In a lot of cases, what we do is we use a series of procedures and protocols that are part of our system because to tell you the truth, I am not the system. There are no such things as Super Lawyers. I do not care what that goofy site says, that is just marketing BS. The reality is I am not a super lawyer who is the secret. Instead, we have a system for handling criminal cases and that is the secret. It covers everything from coping with stress during the criminal prosecution to legal pleadings, how they are filed and in what order, how we handle witnesses, whether or not we do depositions, all of this is part of a system to help you or someone you love.

And so, when you ask the question how often do I have to go to court, the short answer is “I do not know”, the more in-depth answer is we are going to do everything possible to keep you out of court unless there is a really good reason for you to be there. There is entirely too much pointless court in Florida. Now, it is not very popular when a board-certified expert is walking around calling court appearance as pointless. As you can imagine, the judges do not like that very much. But in reality, the judge, the prosecutor, the public defender, they are going to be there every court date anyway. That is just how it is. They have to be there because the judge has to be there because the court is scheduled and the prosecutor has to be there because they have got buckets of files, they have more files than they should. And then, on the other side of the courtroom is the public defender’s office, they have to be there and they have got even more buckets and even more files. When I was a PD, one of the reasons I left was I felt I had cases coming out of my ears. And as a result, the participants in the legal system, the prosecutor and the judge will be thinking to themselves we can handle that when we go to court.

And from a private lawyer perspective, someone you have hired, we end up sitting around for an hour or two waiting our turn, we stand up, our client has been drugged by another state or maybe locally they have had to do the enjoyable experience of telling their boss, “Hey boss, guess what? I have got to miss work because I have to go to a criminal court because I am accused of a crime”, this is not popular with any employer and especially military employers and let’s be real. In much of Florida, I mean you can go from Pensacola to Jacksonville and you are going to run into a military base every 30 minutes it feels like. And if they put another one there, it is probably going to sink. So, we handle a lot of military members.

And the real answer to that question, although it is, “I do not know”, is that we are going to use every possible way to keep you out of pointless court appearances where you sit around for hours, waiting for your lawyer to speak for maybe 5 to 10 seconds, get another set of court dates, walk out of the door and you are sitting there going, “G, I had to take off work and this is the third time. I will get fired if it happens again”, we do not do that. If we can excuse you from the court, we are absolutely going to do it. It will reduce your stress, it is frankly a pointless proceeding, it is not a good use of your legal fee to burn it up just going to the courthouse to put in face time. I mean quite frankly, if I am going to the courthouse, I want it to be when something useful is going to occur or a major proceeding where there is going to be some aspect of litigation, maybe it is a brain imaging departure sentence, maybe it is a motion to dismiss or a motion to have evidence thrown out with suppression. Perhaps it is a jury trial.

Now, those are things you are going to have to go to court for. But for perfunctory things like pretrial conferences where you have an agreed continuance, it is foolish to drag you to the courthouse just to hear your lawyer say “A motion to continue first time up, state has no objection”, the judge looks over and goes, “State?” which means “do you have an objection”, the state goes, “No objection, your Honor”, “Okay, motion granted. Pick up your court dates”, that is a waste of your time. And Florida has entirely too much pointless court. We have an entire set of rules of criminal procedure that are in rule 3 and they go on for page after page after page after page. And the reason Florida is a discovery state, and we do not have a lot of preliminary hearings, is so the cases move a lot quicker.

Unfortunately, we have the problem of pointless court where people have to go to court just to hear their lawyer ask for a continuance that there is no objection to, which could have been done by written pleadings without a court appearance. Now, some lawyers, I get it, maybe they are new, maybe they cannot get certified because they do not have enough trial experience. For those lawyers, a pointless court is exciting and valuable and they get to talk in court and they do not have any trials. They do not have any motions to suppress, or worse, they file motions to suppress in every case and the judge does not take them seriously because when you file 10 garbage motions in a row, when the 11th one comes up in front of the same judge, do you think the judge is going to go, “Hmm, I am going to take this one serious”. No, the judge is going to see that lawyer’s name on pleadings and go, “Oh, my God, not again”.

So, what we are going to try and do, if you are one of our clients, is we are going to try and keep you out of court as much as possible understanding that if and when you need to go to court, that is a very specific reason that you need to go, and that you are properly dressed for court, which takes us in to dress instructions for court. And I am just going to give you the shorten version. We send everybody a copy of dress instructions for court. And the most frequent question I get is instead of navy, can I substitute color x? No, not at all. And especially, I have been asked this one twice in the last two weeks, “Well, I do not have the navy suit or dress. Can I wear black?” Let me help you with scientific research. Black is the jail and prison color. Did you know that before you watch this? No. You do not know what you do not know and what you do not know can hurt you. Ignorance in criminal law is not bliss. Ignorance is a disaster waiting to happen. So, the answer is to hire skilled and competent criminal defense counsel, follow their advice explicitly and try to make sure you find criminal court counsel who really knows what they are doing and knows all of the tips and tricks and things that can be done to keep you out of court unless you absolutely need to be there and preferably something useful and favorable for you or someone you love is going to happen.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.