What Happens at the First Court Appearance

An arraignment is the first step in a criminal proceeding. If the District Attorney has filed charges, this is the first appearance a defendant has to make in front of the Court. It is the time the accused is told of the charges filed against him. A defendant will be asked to enter a plea at that point. By answering “not guilty,” you are denying each and every charge, placing the burden on the government to prove each and every charge against you beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Court will also set bail that must be posted or you will face being taken into custody and held in jail until your case is completed. Keep in mind – once bail has been set by the Court, you must show a “change in circumstances” to get your bail reduced. I have seen bail amounts not challenged at the time of the arraignment many times. If an attorney is hired later, they have an uphill battle to try to persuade the judge to lower the bail that has already been set. The best chance for a reduction in bail or a release without any bail is to address it at the very first court appearance.

Most importantly at arraignment, the legal “clock” starts ticking. Depending on whether you are charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, that time frame is different.

All of these things, from deciding to enter a “not guilty” plea or not to seeking a reduction in bail or a release on your own recognizance (an “O.R.” release) should be discussed with a criminal defense attorney to be sure your rights are protected.

14 Trackbacks

  1. […] will then set bail officially in court. This stage of the criminal proceedings is crucial. (See this post for other information) The judge has the option to set the bail at the schedule amount, but can set […]

  2. […] have discussed what happens at the first court appearance and what an arraignment is.  The question still remains – what do you do if you’re facing a […]

  3. […] errors:  The law sets out specific time limits for certain things – the arraignment, the preliminary hearing and the trial.  There are deadlines for the prosecution to file certain […]

  4. […] violence charge.  If you’ve made bail, you will be required to appear in court for your arraignment.  What can you do in the meantime?  Discuss the case with a criminal defense lawyer.  There may […]

  5. […] in custody throughout your court case.  Your first court appearance is the arraignment.  (See this post for more information on the arraignment.)  After that, most felony cases proceed to preliminary […]

  6. […] Your arrest doesn’t signal the end of an investigation against you – it’s only the beginning of the legal process.  Unless the police conclude their entire investigation against you, they can still be building a case, even after your arrest and before your first court appearance. […]

  7. […] errors:  The law sets out specific time limits for certain things – the arraignment, the preliminary hearing and the trial.  There are deadlines for the prosecution to file certain […]

  8. […] Your arrest doesn’t signal the end of an investigation against you – it’s only the beginning of the legal process. Unless the police conclude their entire investigation against you, they can still be building a case, even after your arrest and before your first court appearance. […]

  9. […] for bail may not be the best way to help. Depending on when the person was arrested, they may be sent to court the very next day. At that point, an attorney can intervene. Sometimes, attorneys can successfully […]

  10. […] errors: The law sets out specific time limits for certain things – the arraignment, the preliminary hearing and the trial. There are deadlines for the prosecution to file certain […]

  11. Domestic violence charges and defenses - June 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    […] violence charge.  If you’ve made bail, you will be required to appear in court for your arraignment.  What can you do in the meantime?  Discuss the case with a criminal defense lawyer.  There may […]

  12. […] with a domestic violence charge, you will be required to be in court for your first appearance (the arraignment).  In many cases, the prosecution can request that the judge issue a criminal protective order […]

  13. […] is for trial. In a misdemeanor case, you have a right to a trial within 30 calendar days of your arraignment (first appearance in court and not guilty plea) if you’re in custody at the time of arraignment or 45 days if you’re out of custody. As […]

  14. […] you got arrested and either got released with a court date coming up or you posted bail with a date to appear in the future.  Now, your mailbox is flooded with letters from lawyers and law […]

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