Entering a Pro Forma Plea
You enter a plea; you enter what they call a Pro Forma, a not guilty plea with a jury election. You waive a reading of the information– the charges.
The Next Date is a Pretrial Conference With the Prosecutor
The court will give you another date and then the next court date will be a pretrial date. When you come back on that time you’ll sit down and have a meaningful discussion with the prosecutor. The prosecutors are pretty liberal on granting continuances as are the judges. When you start getting past 90 or 120 days then they start putting some pressure on you to move the case.
If the Attorney and the Prosecutor Cannot Resolve Issues During the Pretrial Conference, the Attorney Will Request a Judicial Pretrial
If you can’t resolve anything with the prosecutor at the pretrial then you can request a judicial pretrial. Then, you get a judicial pretrial that the judge assigns that date and you come back with your client. At that time, the prosecutor, defense attorney and a pretrial Judge discuss the case.
The Judge Attending the Judicial Pretrial is Not the Judge Who Will Hear the Case but He or She Will Offer Opinions on the Facts of the Case
The judge might put his or her input in or might say I can’t do anything on this one. He or she could say to the prosecutor, “I do not think you can win this case. I think you ought to reduce the charge” or “This is my feeling on the case.”
Interviewer: The judge will put forth an opinion right there?
Steve Tomeo: Yes, but that’s not the judge that will try the case. The judge attending the judicial pretrial is an independent judge that’s not going to try the case. He or she doesn’t have anything to do with the case; at this pretrial they are just going to try to get the parties to resolve the issues.
If the Issues Are Resolved During the Judicial Pretrial, the Case May Be Resolved That Day
If you can resolve the issues and there’s a judge sitting on the bench, you can go into the courtroom and resolve the matter. Either plead guilty or if the prosecutor reduces the charges, plead guilty to it or the case is thrown out entirely, you are dismissed and you can leave. If you can’t resolve the issue, then you can go in the court and you can put the case on the jury list. Then, we wait for a trial to be scheduled.