If you've been arrested and charged with a crime in the Myrtle Beach area, you are going to have a lot of questions about what happens next. Like, what is roll call?
You may have pressing questions that you want answered immediately, like:
- How do I post bond?
- Am I going to prison? And,
- Can my attorney get my case dismissed?
But then, as we investigate, negotiate, and prepare for trial, there is the reality that most criminal cases take months or even years to resolve. As your case is pending, there will be court appearances, roll calls, and other "procedural" events that can have serious consequences.
For example, if you miss a "roll call" date and were not excused by the solicitor's office, the court will issue a bench warrant for your arrest...
What is Roll Call?
We sometimes call it cattle call...
Most assistant solicitors in Horry County don't like to call it "roll call" (or cattle call).
Probably because it sounds a bit ridiculous. And oppressive. If you intend to go to trial if your case is not dismissed, what is the purpose of making you come to the courthouse just to "check in?"
There are two answers that are obvious to most defense attorneys:
- To harass and intimidate you into pleading guilty without a trial; and
- To issue a bench warrant if you miss the court date - people who are trapped in jail are more likely to plead guilty, whether they are guilty or not, if it means they can get home faster.
So, what does "roll call" look like?
Hundreds of people in a line that stretches outside the courthouse doors, confused defendants wandering the halls looking for their courtroom (and some confused attorneys as well), and courtrooms packed with tense, nervous, confused defendants who are looking around for their attorneys and wondering when they can get out of here...
So, is there any point to it apart from harassment and issuing bench warrants?
First Appearance or Initial Appearance
The first appearance, or initial appearance, is usually scheduled within 45 days of your arrest - the court will give you paperwork at your bond hearing that should include a notice of the location and date of your first appearance.
Make sure that you keep this paperwork and bring it to your attorney at your first meeting. Put the date on a calendar, and make sure that you are there unless your attorney confirms that you have been excused from appearing.
Although your case could be resolved at your initial appearance, it is not likely. Your attorney may or may not receive discovery materials from the prosecutor at your initial appearance, but the primary purpose of the first appearance is to make sure that you have an attorney.
Second Appearance or Docket Appearance
The second appearance, or "docket appearance" depending on what county you are charged in, is scheduled approximately four months after your arrest.
Apart from another opportunity for the prosecutor to get a bench warrant, the purpose of the second appearance is to determine whether you are going to plead guilty or go to trial, resolve any outstanding discovery or evidentiary issues if possible, and ensure that your attorney and prosecutor have the opportunity to discuss your case.
Will I have to Appear for Roll Call Again After My Second Appearance?
Depending on who your prosecutor is, they might send you notices to come back to the courthouse - even after your second appearance.
Maybe there is a question they need answered and they want to discuss it with your attorney in person. Maybe your prosecutor wants you to appear in front of a judge for an "arraignment" - making the plea offer to you on the record and getting you to either accept the plea offer or tell the court you are going to trial.
But, if your attorney has been communicating with your prosecutor, if you are not accepting their plea offer, and if the issues for trial have been resolved through communications with the prosecutor or through motion hearings, there may be no real purpose to it other than harassment.
Years ago, it was normal for every defendant to be required to show up every month just to check in. Now, in most cases, your attorney at Axelrod and Associates can work to get you excused from unnecessary and repetitive court appearances - always let your attorney know immediately when you receive a notice (often in the form of a postcard) from the solicitor's office.
How Can I Get Excused from Roll Call?
Should you call the solicitor's office? The clerk of court?
Stay in constant contact with your attorney and assume that you are not excused from roll call until your attorney confirms that you have been excused. Do not call the solicitor's office, clerk, or anyone other than your defense lawyer...
Sometimes you will not get confirmation until the last minute - always make arrangements to be in court on your roll call date until your attorney confirms you have been excused.
What Happens if I Miss Roll Call?
If you miss a roll call date, the clerk will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Depending on the circumstances and your bondsman's reaction, your bond could be revoked as well...
In many cases, we can file a motion and have a judge lift the bench warrant. But there are no guarantees - do not take any chances, stay in touch with your lawyer, and make sure that you do not miss a court date.
How Can I Find Out if I Have a Bench Warrant?
Should you call the police department? The Sheriff's Office or the Solicitor's Office?
Call your attorney. If you don't have an attorney and think you may have missed a court date, get a criminal defense attorney now. Your attorney will find out whether there is a bench warrant and file a motion to lift the bench warrant if the prosecutor does not consent.
In some cases, we can schedule the hearing and ask the court to lift the bench warrant before you are arrested - don't delay calling your attorney if you think that you have a bench warrant.
What if I Have Multiple Charges?
What happens when someone is arrested, bonds out, receives court dates for the first and second appearances, and then is arrested again on new charges?
If the court gives you a bond for the new set of charges, you will have two more roll call dates - this can get confusing for people with multiple sets of charges.
You will need to keep track of all roll call dates - make sure that your attorney has all documents from each arrest - and you will need to appear at all of them unless your attorney gets you excused.
Is There Roll Call in the Magistrate or Municipal Courts?
In the magistrate and municipal courts in Horry County, there are no "roll call" dates - everything that we discussed above applies only to criminal charges in General Sessions Court.
If we request a jury trial (and we do in most lower court cases that we handle), there will eventually be a "roster meeting" or "pretrial conference" that you may or may not have to attend - in most cases, we attend it for you.
But, that's not "roll call" - the purpose of the roster meeting is to set your trial date or to resolve your case if possible.
If you've been charged with a crime in the Myrtle Beach, SC area, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side as soon as possible - to investigate, negotiate, attempt to get your case dismissed, and prepare your case for trial, but also to guide you through the criminal court's pitfalls and "traps" like tracking your roll call dates and avoiding a bench warrant...