Handling a U.S. Citation Case in D.C. Superior Court

Jamison KoehlerD.C. Superior Court, Law Practice

When I returned to the D.C. area in 2009, I initially practiced in Virginia as well as D.C.  The problem with Virginia was that each jurisdiction – Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, and Prince William Counties – had a different way of doing things, and you felt foolish while trying to figure them out.

Fortunately, the lawyers who had regular practices in those jurisdictions were always very helpful. I would pull one of them aside to ask how I should do something that to him/her was second nature.  The lawyers may have seen me as an interloper – poaching business that might otherwise have come their way.  But, without fail, the lawyers would discreetly prevent me from looking too incompetent.  (Now that I no longer practice in Virginia, I send all my referrals to the lawyers who helped me out.)

This morning, with an Arlington lawyer in D.C. Superior Court for his first arraignment, I was given the opportunity to reciprocate.  Here is what every lawyer appearing in D.C. Superior Court should know about handling an arraignment for a U.S. citation.

Arraignments for U.S. citations (cases in which the arrestee was not held overnight) are held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday every week in C10.  The courtroom opens at 9:30. Defendants without a lawyer are instructed to go to Room C-215 to be interviewed for a court-appointed lawyer.   The judge – usually a magistrate judge – takes the bench at 10:00 am. 

Beginning around 9:55 am, the clerk will read off all the cases (usually at least 30% of the docket) that have been no-papered (i.e., not charged).  Those people are given notice of the “no-paper,” along with instructions on getting their arrest record sealed.

The clerk will begin the docket by calling retained cases (i.e., cases in which the defendant has hired his/her own lawyer).  Court-appointed cases are called after that. 

When a person’s case is called, the lawyer goes up to the bar of the court and stands by the microphone in front of the clerk who is calling the cases.  His/her client stands to the left, a step or two behind the lawyer. The clerk hands the lawyer a copy of the criminal complaint and the prosecutor, standing further to the left, hands over discovery. 

The defendant confirms his identity, and the clerk reads off the charges.  The defense lawyer then says something along the following lines:

–waive a formal reading of complaint
–enter plea of not guilty
–assert constitutional rights at this and future proceedings
–ask for initial status hearing
–ask for personal recognizance in advance of that initial hearing
–[if applicable] ask for drug testing for possible diversion consideration
–note for record submission to government of request for discovery/preservation of initial discovery

The parties discuss a stay-away order if applicable.  They then choose a date for the initial status hearing, and the defendant steps to the left to sign notice to return.

The defendant is instructed to report to Room C301 immediately after court to check in and to verify his/her address.  So as to avoid a return trip to the courthouse, the defendant should bring a piece of mail, addressed to him/her within the last 30 days, at the address he/she would like the court to have on file.

Finally, the defendant walks around the corner to the drug testing unit to submit a urine sample.  The defendant sets up a schedule for drug testing once a week.  He/she then submits the sample.  The defendant can wait around a couple of hours for the results.  Or the defendant can come back the next day.  If the sample is negative, the weekly drug testing requirement will be vacated.