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Understanding Court Hearings

Sarasota Criminal Defense Lawyers Defending Your Rights

When contacted by a new client, often the first question asked is “what is going to happen at my court date?” This type of question reveals the truth that many people charged with crimes simply do not even have a basic understanding of the criminal justice system and its many complicated terms of art. If you feel the same way, the important thing to remember is that it is not your fault. In truth, the criminal justice system is designed to be that way. It is an ancient institution that still uses arcane latin terms to describe very simple and basic court processes. Because the system is designed to confuse and overwhelm the average person, it is important that you do not hesitate to call an experienced Sarasota criminal lawyer if you are charged with a criminal offense.

The question “what is going to happen at my court date?,” can have a variety of answers depending on the type of crime charged and the specific type of court date that is set. The type of court hearing could also vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A disposition hearing in Hillsborough county could be similar to a Pretrial Conference in Pinellas or a Case Management Hearing in Sarasota or Manatee County. Due to the myriad of different rules and hearings throughout the state, it is also important that you consult with a lawyer who has experience in many different jurisdictions.

Advisory and Bond Hearings

The first hearing that any criminal defendant will likely be faced with is an advisory or bond hearing. After an arrest, a bond will be set for the defendant to post pending the formal filing of criminal charges. When a defendant cannot post bond or the specific charges prohibit a bond, an advisory hearing may be set. For domestic violence and some DUI cases, judges are required to set what is called an advisory hearing before allowing the defendant’s release. In a domestic case, judges will put a no contact order in place to prevent any further interaction between the parties. In a DUI, sometimes the judge will require random drug and alcohol testing or will require an ankle monitor prior to release. Even these initial hearings can be hotly contested, so it is important to consult with a skilled Sarasota criminal lawyer to help achieve the best release conditions available to you.


Once formal charges have been filed, an arraignment hearing will be set. The arraignment is the first formal hearing where a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered following the judge’s reading of the formal charges. The arraignment is usually a brief and informal hearing. Typically, if you retain an attorney prior to the arraignment, the lawyer can file paperwork called a written plea of not guilty which will result in the deletion of that court hearing and a future court date being set.

Pretrial Hearings

Pretrial hearings are the most common types of court dates. Each jurisdiction throughout Florida uses a different term to describe these hearings, but they all serve the same purpose. Whether it is called a Calendar Call, Dispo, or Pretrial hearing, the purpose of the hearing is to give the court an update on the case so that the court can manage the jurisdiction’s caseload. For example, if a status hearing is for a relatively new case, the parties are likely still conducting discovery depositions and investigating the cases. Under those circumstances a court will typically continue the case for a future date. As the case gets older, the court will sometimes get more involved with the management of the case to get things moving along.

Speak to Our Lawyers Today

There are many more types of court hearings outside of the basic ones discussed here. Although it may seem straightforward, not all lawyers practice throughout the state and have experience with different jurisdictions. The lawyers at Hanlon Law have experience in a variety of jurisdictions and will make sure you are fully informed about each and every court hearing. Call us today at 941.462.1789.

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As a practicing attorney, I was shocked to hear that a family member of mine was alleged to have committed a sex crime. Knowing full well the consequences this type of allegation can have on anyone and their future, I immediately reached out to William Hanlon for help... Jerry
Was on the ball. Remembered names, events, places, situations. Never need to re explain the situation. Keeps in touch through out the entire experience and keeps you feeling safe, comforted and protected. Fights hard. Worth every single penny. Would never settle for anything less than Will. Carrie
I was facing a charge that if convicted would carry two years in prison minimally. Not only was he empathetic and listening to what I had to say but he arranged with the prosecutor for my charges not to be filed under terms of a pre trial investigation. Would highly recommend. Alec
I am very happy for what he did for me. Always there when I needed him. Explained everything well. He Fights for his clients. He got me what I needed. Hes an excellent lawyer. Mutaz
Mr. Hanlon did what no other lawyer could do. Not only did he turn my criminal history into a thing of the past so I could move on, he was a loyal associate. No matter how bad the situation is, he has miraculously cleared me on every charge since he became my lawyer 5 years ago. I have the best lawyer that the legal system has to offer. I have had other really good lawyers try to get my business, but I know that no one can do a better job than William Hanlon. Jesse