The ability to postpone a court date depends on a number of factors in the legal system. This includes how many times you have asked to hold off the same trial in the past and whether it is a pretrial hearing (also referred to as the "the discovery stage.") or the actual day of the trial itself. If it is your first time to request a delay, it is usually relatively easy to have the date changed, but each county has different rules on how many times you can do so.
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Things you need
- Local phone-book or phone number of specific county that the trial is being held in
- Case number & trial date
- Lawyer (optional)
Call the "court administration" for the county that you've been charged in. It can be found in the "government pages" section of your local phone-book or through the "State and Local Government" search page on the website for The Library of Congress.
Have your case number and the trial date on hand to expedite things when you call. Both can be found on your court papers, but if you do not have access to the information at that time, the administrator's office will still be able to find it based on your full name and date of birth.
Tell them that you wish to change the date of your pretrial hearing. In general, most counties allow you to do this once without too much trouble.
Have a good explanation as to why you are doing so, especially if you had already changed it once before. Be prepared for the possibility that they may not allow you to do it again.
Go to your pretrial hearing if it cannot be changed and ask to speak with the prosecutor, as well as the county defender, to express your reasons for not being ready. Depending on the charge, some prosecutors will offer to cut a deal right then and there to recommend to the judge. The defender can also offer advice on how to proceed.
Plead "Not Guilty" when it is your turn before the judge if you cannot reach an agreement. A trial date will then be set, but remember that this option could create additional court fees.
Talk to your county defence attorney, if one was appointed to you during your pretrial hearing. If you have legal counsel, only do things based on his recommendations.
Retain a lawyer if you were not edible to receive assistance from a country defence attorney. Not only is this strongly recommended in all criminal matters, they can petition the courts for an extension if they need more time to prepare your case.
Call the court administration office again on your own to see about changing the date if you choose not to seek professional legal counsel. Their decision can depend upon the county's rules regarding criminal trials, any bail requirements put in place, as well as the nature of the charges themselves.
Go to the trial if you are unable to postpone the it. Petition the judge to allow you for an extension and make sure that there is a good explanation as to why it is that you are not ready.
Be prepared that the judge may deny your petition and you will have to begin the trial immediately. Sentencing depends on the county's rules and can be done right after the trial. A "sentencing date" may be scheduled for later.
Tips and warnings
- Be warned that the judge or jury has the ultimate decision. They may not agree with a prosecutor's recommendation and determine an alternate sentence. It is always in your best interest to retain a lawyer, especially in cases involving criminal charges.
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