What to Expect at Your First Court Appearance
June 23, 2023
The ArraignmentThe first court appearance in a criminal case is referred to as an “arraignment” in legal terms. The arraignment is largely an administerial hearing. The court will read the charges against you, ask you whether you understand them, and inform you of your constitutional rights.
Your PleaOnce you have been formally charged by the court, the next step in the arraignment is to ask you how you wish to plead to each offense. Entering your plea is the most critical moment of your arraignment. As a practical matter, many people in this situation chose to plead “not guilty” until their attorney has an opportunity to review the evidence and discuss the next steps.
Pretrial ReleaseThe last issue to be decided at your arraignment is whether or not you will be allowed to go free pending trial. There are three options:
- The court could release you “on your own recognizance.” This means that they believe that they can trust you to return to court for your trial.
- The court could order you held without bail. This is done when the court believes the defendant is dangerous to society or is a likely flight risk.
- The court could set bail. Based on factors such as your criminal record and the severity of the crime, the court will set a bail amount – a bond that you must pay into the court to be held until you return to court.