North Carolina Criminal Law | Why Court Can Take So Long!

This morning, I was sitting in Raleigh District Court on a small matter for one of my clients. As a Raleigh DWI Lawyer and a Raleigh Criminal Attorney this is something I do often, whether for a Raleigh DWI Ticket or a North Carolina Criminal Citation. As I was waiting for my turn to address this issue with the District Attorney, I overheard comments made by the gentlemen seated behind me in the general seating area for the general public. “Five minutes and they have only called up one case.” “I’ve been here for almost an hour and they’ve only gone through 5 cases.” “Why is this taking so long?”

The funny thing about these comments was, in the hour in which I was in court this morning, and these comments were being made continuously, the number of defendants in this same area was cut almost in half, even though the Judge probably only called up 10-15 cases (the calender for today probably had 80-90 names on it). The reality is, while these guys were sitting their complaining about what they thought was inactivity on the part of the court personnel, the reality was A LOT was going on right in front of them. Therefore, I decided today’s post would be about what appears to be happening up front at court, and what really is going on.

Let me start by saying, not only have I observed the efforts of the District Attorneys, the Clerk of Courts and the Judges as a Defense Attorney, but also as a former Prosecutor, I know exactly what the District Attorneys are doing and why they are needed some consideration.

First, EVERY case on the calender that day MUST go through the District Attorney. Even if it is a simple continuance or guilty plea, the District Attorney must at least be made aware of what is attempting to be done with that case and either agree to it or put it up in front of the Judge for a ruling. So, when those 80-90 (or many times much, much more) names are read of at the beginning of court during Calender Call, remember that each one of those the District Attorney will have to deal with that day. And before you start complaining about how the State should provide more District Attorneys to move court along faster, I don’t know that anyone would agree more then the District Attorneys themselves. Sadly, due to budget constraints and the public’s opposition to Tax increases, these are how the court will have to be operated.

Second, though it may appear that the District Attorney isn’t doing anything, the reality they are doing A LOT. If they aren’t talking to Defendant’s who are representing themselves, they are negotiating with the many Criminal Defense Attorneys there, or processing paperwork for the Judge and/or Clerk of Court. Even if the District Attorney is just sitting there looking at his/her computer, chances are they are looking at a Defendant’s record to make a decision on how to handle the case.

If you ever look at the demeanor of the Defense Attorneys who are present in court, you’ll notice they are not frustrated or mad at how long it’s taking for their case to be handled. These attorneys, who do this for a living, know what is going on and try to be as helpful to the D.A. as possible.

So, next time you are in court, try and think about what the court personnel are attempting to do and be as patient as you can be.

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