Everything You Need to Know About DC Criminal Court
You may be facing a case with the DC Criminal Court if you have been charged with a crime in the District of Columbia. Learn more in this guide.
What to Know Before You Go to the Criminal Court in DC
When facing the criminal court system in DC, one must remember that the District of Columbia isn’t a state. Unlike other jurisdictions with a circuit court, city court, and a justice court, all local criminal cases go through the Superior Court. Cases including District of Columbia code violations, criminal traffic infractions, felonies, and misdemeanors are prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.
In the District of Columbia courts, there are two primary pathways your criminal case may take: community courts or superior court.
- Community Courts: Community courts are District of Columbia court reform initiatives designed to reduce the strain on DC’s criminal justice system by creating an alternative, community-based program for defendants with low-level offenses. There are currently two community courthouses in place in the city: East of the River Community Court (ERCC) and DC Misdemeanor and Traffic Community Court.
- Superior Court: If you have been charged with more violent crimes such as a felony or a crime of violence against another person, your case will be tried in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
A criminally charged person needs to know what to expect in court and where to go for their case. A DC federal criminal defense attorney will provide the proper procedures for courtroom decorum and additional information. Make an appointment to schedule an attorney consultation and begin your defense today.
DC Court of Appeals Responsibilities
The Washington Criminal Court is comprised of the Superior Court and the DC Court of Appeals. As a state supreme court equivalent and the highest DC court, the DC Court of Appeals reviews:
- Contested case decisions
- Final orders
- Proposed Superior Court rules
The District of Columbia Court of Appeals also oversees the attorneys who are members of its Bar. A United States District Court lawyer can further explain your rights and responsibilities when facing criminal charges or traffic violations.
Criminal Court Locations in Washington DC
The Washington DC Superior Court is located in the Moultrie Courthouse at 500 Indiana Avenue NW in Washington, DC 20001. The Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia is in the Historic Courthouse at 430 E Street NW in Washington, DC 20001. They’re open on Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and can be reached by calling (202) 879-1010.
The Criminal Court Division consists of the following branches:
- Case Management
- Courtroom Support
- Quality Assurance
- Special Proceedings
There are also eight community courts within Washington DC to handle local matters. A Maryland criminal lawyer can provide additional information regarding how one should behave in the trial court or the appellate courts.
Understanding the Criminal Court Cases in DC
How criminal court cases are handled in DC varies based on what type of crime you allegedly committed and what precisely you are charged with. Crimes are divided into these categories:
- Misdemeanor cases
- Domestic violence crimes
After being arrested for misdemeanor offenses, you will be taken into custody, booked, processed, and released with a court date to be arraigned, usually within three weeks. The United States Attorney’s office will charge you with the crime at the arraignment. If the charges are related to an illegal substance, your experience might include drug court.
After booking and processing, those charged with felonies are presented before a Superior Court associate judge as soon as possible rather than receiving a citation for a later date. There, they will discover whether they should be held or released while your case is in process. After that, a grand jury will determine whether to charge you and with what. If charged with a felony, you will appear for an arraignment.
When arrested for domestic violence, the case is handled in the Domestic Violence Unit of the criminal court system. Whatever type of criminal case you face, you should immediately consult with a criminal defense lawyer in the jurisdiction to ensure that your rights are maintained throughout the process.
Doing a Criminal Court Cases Search in DC
The District of Columbia Superior Court offers a DC Criminal Court Cases Search portal online to provide accurate and current public docket information through the online case search system (eAccess). Citation cases like traffic offenses are unavailable. To look up the court date for those, you should contact law enforcement from the district where the citation was issued.
For a list of current cases, click “Search Now” and click the “User Guide” found on the left side of the eAccess landing page. Public docket information and even document images are nearly immediately available upon being scanned or input into court records.
DC Courts Publically Available Remote Hearings
Aside from a small number of hearings, the DC Superior Court conducts publically open hearings that are partially or entirely remote. The general public can join by phone or the video-conference application, WebEx. You can find information about joining these hearings on the Superior Court Remote Hearing information page.
Although the Courts make every effort to keep information up-to-date, they may occasionally overlook outdated facts or inaccuracies. Defendants and their families can obtain more information from the criminal defense lawyer.
Finding the DC Superior Court Court Schedule
The District of Columbia provides an updated and comprehensive DC Criminal Court Schedule at 7:00 p.m. each night before the following day’s court proceedings. Criminal cases in the DC Courts are complex, and a person dealing with them often finds them stressful. An established law firm familiar with the courtrooms can ease their mind.
Obtaining Criminal Court Records in DC
The District of Columbia Superior Court and Court of Appeals provide DC Criminal Court Records online for public access. A local law firm can help you navigate the District of Columbia Courts.
DC Court Criminal Division Attorneys
When selecting an attorney to advise and represent you in your dealings with the DC Court Criminal Division, you should choose one that can help you prepare for the type of court date you have.
If you are being prosecuted for a citation, you can hire a lawyer to accompany you to your first court date. However, if your trial is approaching, you should be consulting with your attorney to ensure you are prepared for everything that entails, such as arguments, testimonies, and witnesses.
Communicating with a DC attorney like Christopher J. Mutimer of Scrofano Law lets you become familiar with the necessary steps, including any pretrial conditions imposed by the court.
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