Tarrant County Criminal Courts: Where to Go and What to Expect
By Benson Varghese
Last Updated: July 2nd, 2020
Published on: July 7th, 2014
If you have been arrested for a felony or a non-traffic misdemeanor offense, your case will be heard in one of the 20 criminal courts in downtown Fort Worth. All of the Tarrant County criminal courts at the County and District levels are located inside the Tim Curry Justice Center. The Tim Curry Justice Center is located at 401 W. Belknap Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102. Below is a list of all of Tarrant County’s criminal courts and their location in the justice center, as well as other useful information that will help ease your anxiety about going to court.
Going to court for the first time can be a nerve-wracking process. Taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with what to expect in court will help you feel more at ease when your first court date arrives.
If you have never been to court on a criminal case before, outside of a traffic citation, you might imagine that a court setting means that you will be in court in front of a judge, that the State will be prepared to call witnesses against you, and you might even have a trial. Generally, a case will have several settings before it reaches trial. This article will help set expectations on what will happen during the first court setting.
What Time Should I Be in Court?
The last thing you want to do is to get off to a bad start with your judge. You should know that it may be difficult to find parking near the courthouse. The time on your court notice is the time you are expected to be present in the courtroom, not parking or walking into the courthouse.
All of our clients are informed to be in court at least thirty minutes before their court settings. This ensures that even if you run into traffic, delays getting through security, or the elevators are down, you will still get to court on time.
What Happens When I Get to My Courtroom?
When you arrive outside your assigned courtroom, if it is unlocked go inside and check in with the bailiff. However, if you are early, the courtroom will likely be closed and you will need to wait outside. Once you are allowed into the courtroom, the bailiffs will give you instructions as to whether you should check in with them, or have a seat and wait for the judge to formally call the docket. Docket call is the court “taking attendance” to make sure that all the defendants scheduled to be there are present. If the bailiff or judge calls the docket, be sure to answer out loud. You want to make sure that the court knows that you are present; otherwise, a warrant can be issued for your arrest.
The average docket can last two to three hours, depending on the volume of cases set. The bulk of your time in court may be spent waiting. When your attorney arrives, he or she will speak to the prosecutor on your behalf. There are generally two to four prosecutors and 50-100 defense attorneys waiting to speak to them. It’s also important to note that there is a hierarchy to the court system. Attorneys must appear in any felony courts first, and then make any misdemeanor appearances they have. The discussion will include the circumstances and evidence involved in your case, the likelihood of a plea offer and any other special issues such as eligibility for a diversion program. Many of these discussions also take place before court. Once your attorney has a sense of the State’s position on your case, he or she will discuss your options. You will have three options for how to proceed with your case. Option one is to accept the plea offer being extended to you; option two is to reject the offer and move toward a trial; option three is to ask for another court date so that either side can gather more information.
It’s important to know that the number of times a case can be rescheduled depends on the reason it is being reset, and also the individual judge’s discretion as to how quickly they expect cases to be resolved.
Being informed and having realistic expectations will help make the process of handling your case less stressful. If you arrive on time, are prepared to be patient, and maintain good communication with your attorney, you will have taken significant steps toward having a productive day in court.