Roster meeting, pretrial conference, roll call, initial appearance, docket appearance, what do they mean? Do I have to attend these “court dates?”

Most clients of ours who are charged with a crime will have some type of “court date” where they or their attorney are just “checking in with the court,” sometimes to keep tabs on our client and other times to attempt to “work out” their case or schedule a jury trial date if the case cannot be resolved. 

In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the various types of roster meetings, pretrial conferences, and roll calls in criminal cases in Horry County, including:

  • Which court dates you can safely miss (so long as your attorney is there), 
  • When the court will issue a bench warrant because you failed to appear, and
  • How to ensure you do not miss mandatory court dates. 

Roster Meeting – Central Jury Court in Horry County

Once you request a jury trial in any magistrate court in Horry County, your case is transferred to the “Horry County Central Jury Court,” and you will most likely not have another court date until your case is scheduled for a roster meeting. 

Where Will the Roster Meeting be Held? 

If you were arrested in the Conway section of Horry County, your roster meeting will most likely be scheduled in Conway. If you were arrested in the Myrtle Beach section of Horry County, your roster meeting will most likely be scheduled in Myrtle Beach. 

In either case, however, your roster meeting may be scheduled at the location that is most convenient for your attorney. 

What Happens at the Roster Meeting? 

A magistrate judge will go through their roster of names, ask the attorney and the officer or assistant solicitor if they have reached an agreement in the case, and, if there is no agreement, schedule the case for a jury trial (or continue the case until the next roster meeting). 

Your attorney might take the opportunity to discuss the case with the officer or assistant solicitor to see if an agreement can be reached, or, if you already know you are going to trial, your attorney might just set a jury trial date. 

Do I Need to Appear at the Roster Meeting? 

You are not required to attend roster meetings in Horry County Central Jury Court if you have an attorney, although many of our clients choose to be there. 

As with all court dates, check in with your lawyer before the court date to confirm that you do not need to be there or you have been excused from appearing because you will get a bench warrant if you miss some court appearances (roll calls in General Sessions Court, for example). 

What is the Initial Court Date on My Blue Ticket? 

The initial court date on your blue ticket in the magistrate court is the day you are expected to plead guilty… 

If you don’t plead guilty, the judge may give you a “bench trial,” with no jury and no attorney. 

If you don’t show up, you may be found guilty in your absence, sentenced, and a bench warrant could be issued for your arrest. 

Your attorney might choose to appear at the initial court date to attempt to resolve the case – check with your attorney well in advance of the initial court date to find out whether you need to be there or not. 

Once you have requested a jury trial in writing, you do not need to appear at the initial court date – stay in touch with your attorney as the case progresses, and your next “court date” will most likely be your roster meeting. 

Pre-Trial Conferences

These “organizational meetings,” where the parties attempt to resolve their cases and the court schedules a jury trial date, have different names in different courts. 

In the magistrate’s Central Jury Court, it is called a roster meeting. In some of the municipal courts (City of Myrtle Beach, for example), it is called a roster meeting or a “pretrial conference.” The procedure is similar in each court with some variations (in some courts, your attorney may disappear into a back room to discuss your case with the prosecutor, while in other courts the judge will just call the names one at a time in open court). 

Sometimes, circuit court judges will schedule a “pretrial conference” in a General Sessions case, where your attorney and prosecutor meet with a judge to discuss the issues in a case that is headed to trial or to assist the attorneys in reaching a resolution. 

Roll Call in General Sessions Court

In General Sessions Court, you will have a series of “roll call” dates that you must attend unless your attorney gets you excused. 

These may be called the “initial appearance” or “docket appearance,” but we refer to them as “roll call” or “cattle call,” because they don’t serve much practical purpose other than giving the prosecutor an opportunity to issue bench warrants for defendants who do not appear… 

What happens at roll call? 

  • Your attorney may discuss the evidence and legal issues in your case with your prosecutor, 
  • The prosecutor may provide discovery materials to your attorney, or
  • The prosecutor might make a plea offer and schedule a plea date if it is accepted.

Which Court Dates are Mandatory for the Defendant? 

In most cases, you are not required to attend a roster meeting in magistrate court or a pretrial conference in municipal court. 

In some cases, you are required to attend a pretrial conference in General Sessions Court – check with your attorney to be sure. 

In all cases, you are required to attend roll call dates (initial appearance or docket appearance) in General Sessions Court unless your attorney has confirmed that you are excused – if you are not excused and you do not appear, they will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. 

Questions About Roster Meetings in Horry County? 

If you have been charged with a crime in the municipal or magistrate court in SC, you should contact a magistrate court criminal defense lawyer immediately – before the initial court that was given to you on your ticket or at your bond hearing. You may have options that can keep your record clean, whether it’s a negotiated dismissal of your case, a jury trial in the magistrate court, or a pretrial diversion program.

Call Coastal Law now to schedule a free case consultation by calling (843) 488-5000 or by contacting us through our website.

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