By Cody N. Guarnieri, Esq.
There are a million (plus) reasons why you might want or need to have the assigned date moved (or "continued") for your appearance in a criminal matter in the courts of Connecticut. You were unable to get work off that day, you have a final examination, or they are not going to refund that expensive vacation you booked to Disneyland before being arrested. As insurance commercials remind us constantly: life happens. So you might expect that court personnel and prosecutors in Connecticut make it simple and easy to continue your case, or to change your court date to better suit your schedule and life. Generally, I'm afraid not. Here are five tips to consider in effectively and efficiently changing or continuing your criminal court date in Connecticut:
- Plan ahead. Many of the potential reasons that you may need to continue or change the date of your court appearance are known to you well ahead of time. Correspondingly, anticipate your scheduling needs and seek to move the court date (discussed below) as well in advance of your court date as is possible.
- Seek consensus (or at least try to). As opposed to how it might appear in court different courthouses throughout the state, the prosecutors are not in exclusive control of the flow and movement of the court files and cases. However, the court (i.e. the judge who holds the gavel) will often want to ensure that the State has been asked if they have an opinion on moving your case. Before seeking to change your court date, call the Office of the State’s Attorney in the geographical area or judicial district where your case is pending and ask if they agree to the change.
- Make a motion. Despite the high level and efficiency of customer service that the public has come to expect in the 21st century of private businesses, the State of Connecticut and the Judiciary does not operate that way. There is no one that you can call to get verbal permission to not show up on your court date. You must file a motion. The motion for a continuance can be found on the judicial website here. Be sure to fill it completely and accurately. As mentioned above, fill this out and submit it as early as possible before the court date you are trying to move. Make sure your file your motion (by fax or mail) with the clerk of the court your case is in and send a copy to the states attorney as well.
- Follow up with the court. Some courts can process the motion to continue your case shortly after submitting it. Others will not act on that motion until the scheduled court itself. You should call the clerk of the court shortly after submitting your motion to ensure that it was received and appears to be in order. Also check with the clerk shortly before your scheduled court date to ensure that your motion was acted upon and confirm that you need not appear on that date.
- Do not take chances. Do not assume that your submitted motion will be granted. Do not fail to follow up appropriately with the court. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to ensure that you motion has been acted upon by the court and that you need not appear on the scheduled court date. If you fail to attend a court date (willfully) without the judge's consent could result your being charged with the additional crime of failure to appear (in violation of Connecticut General Statute Section 53a-173) and have a brand new criminal case against you.