While it isn't the first question most people have, at some point, you want to know how many times you will have to take off from work and appear in court. Like most things, the answer is it depends.


Generally, you will have to show up to court fewer times for less serious charges. After you are arrested, you are given a court date in McLennan County. That is an appearance date mainly for tracking purposes. You don't have to show up if you hire a Waco criminal defense lawyer before this date. Instead, your lawyer will call in and enter an appearance for you. Depending on your discussion, they may put the case on the trial or plea docket. Those designations are not final since you usually don't know what you will do now. 

If the case is set on the trial docket, you will get a pre-trial date. That is when the court takes announcements and either assigns a trial date or schedules a date to hear pre-trial matters. The case can also be set for a plea if an agreement is reached. The case will often be passed, and you will receive another pre-trial date. You do have to appear for these pre-trial hearings. Sometimes, there may be only one, while there may be multiple hearings in other cases.

If the case is set for a plea, you will get a court date - which is always on Thursdays. Those dates are often re-set, but you don't have to be present.

Some people only have to show up for court one time—when they enter a plea. Others may have to show up several times if the case is set for trial. However, you will rarely have to show up more than three or four times.


As you might guess, felonies are entirely different. Your obligation to appear in court doesn't start until your case is indicted. Once that occurs, you will be given an appointment date. You can waive that by signing a written document and avoiding appearing in court. Once that is done, the case is set for trial, and you will get a date for an announcement docket. The purpose of that hearing is to ensure that your lawyer and the district attorney talk about your case and see if it can be resolved. If you reach an agreement, it will be set for a plea. If not, it will be set for trial. You often need more time, and the case will be set for another announcement docket. You don't have to appear for these dockets as of the time of writing this post (October 31, 2013). Instead, your lawyer will take care of that and submit the necessary form.

If the case is set for a plea, you must show up for that. If the plea agreement is for probation, you will not be sentenced. Instead, a pre-sentence report will be ordered, and you will be given a new date for sentencing. 

You will get a pre-trial date if the case is set for a trial. You must show up for this. At the pre-trial, the case will either be numbered for trial or passed. If it is numbered for trial, a status hearing will be set for the following week. The process here varies according to which court you are in. If you are in the 19th District Court, you don't have to attend the status hearing. If your case is not reached when it is set for trial and another pre-trial date is set, you don't have to show up for that. If your case is in the 54th District Court, you must show up for all your court settings. 

Even if your case is set for trial, it is probably not going the first time it is set. Most importantly, priority is given to the oldest cases and the people in jail the longest. It is common for cases to be put on the pre-trial multiple times. In the 54th, you may have multiple court appearances - sometimes as many as ten or more. 

CAUTION - The above information is specific to McLennan County and Waco. Each county handles its docket differently; as you can see, even courts in the same county may handle their docket differently. If you are in another county, you must talk to your lawyer to ensure you understand how the system works there.

No matter whether you have to show up in court once or multiple times, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you show up each and every time—and ON TIME. If you don't show up or show up late, your bond can be forfeited, and you may spend the rest of your time in jail while waiting for your case to be reached.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.