There are four main people that you will almost always find in any courtroom in Wake County. They all have individual roles that are independent of the others but yet must work together in order for court to run smoothly.
The first is the deputy. In Wake County they are not bailiffs, they are actual Wake County Sheriffs that are stationed in the courthouse to protect and enforce order. They are the party that will confiscate noisy phones, kick combative people out of the courtroom and or take people into custody upon sentencing.
Next is the one that you immediately think of when you “go to court.” The Judge. Court does not start until they arrive and they are the decision makers in the room. They are elected by the people and unless appealed, their judgment is final. In some cases the Judge will also make any and all decisions regarding continuances. Typically a Judge that does this practice is one that has been on the bench for a while. Most of the Judges in Wake County are really great people. They don’t sit up there with a gavel and try to find ways to send people to jail. Rather most of them are more willing to help you get things straightened out with a more positive outcome.
**Remember, the best thing to do is to ALWAYS have a lawyer when going before a Judge or talking to a District Attorney**
The third party is the other party you may have immediately thought of- the District Attorney or DA. Typically speaking, the DA in the courtroom will actually be an Assistant District Attorney, or ADA. They will always sit on the left-hand side of the Judge. Their sole job is to prosecute you. Be careful of this because anything you say to them can be used against you later in front of the Judge. They also have the sole discretion in dismissing cases. One thing that people don’t realize is that if the DA does dismiss your charge- they can choose to recharge you at any time. Again, it is important that you have representation!! The Wake County District Attorney’s are very good at what they do. Don’t go into battle unarmed.
The fourth party of the courtroom is the Clerk. The Clerk is the more silent member of the courtroom. The Clerk is the record and file holder for anything that happens in court. They retain the judgments, fill out the paperwork and any other clerical function that is required. They often are involved with calendar call and are charged with having 100% accuracy with entering judgments that become the official record. One rule that many attorneys have told me that they quickly learned out of law school: never upset a clerk! As a former courtroom clerk myself, I know first-hand the policies, rules and procedures of this silent court official.
As a reminder, court can be a scary place no matter what the charge may be. Our team here at The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel is uniquely trained in order to navigate these strange waters with you. If you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense in Wake County, North Carolina please contact one of our Raleigh Criminal Defense Attorneys at 919-585-1486 for a free consultation. Our office is located in Cary and we handle the Wake County cities of Raleigh, Apex, Morrisville, Cary, Fuquay Varina, Garner, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Holly Springs, Zebulon, Knightdale and Wendell.