Your First Appearance in Criminal Court – What to Expect

Categories: Criminal Defense

criminal court

Your initial appearance can vary depending on the jurisdiction. Typically, your first appearance in court is from 24 up to 48 hours after the initial arrest.  Certainly the time frame can vary if you were arrested over the course of a weekend.

As a first-time criminal defendant, it is crucial to hire a criminal defense attorney – regardless of your innocence. Your first appearance in court sets the tone for the entire case. Having representation ahead of time could make a difference in the overall outcome.

What to Expect during Your Initial Court Appearance in Mesa Criminal Courts

Your initial court appearance is often brief – lasting less than ten minutes in most cases. However, those ten minutes have a significant impact on your quality of life while you await trial and the overall outcome of your case. Therefore, do not assume that the initial court appearance is minor and that you can represent yourself.

The Main Actions during Your Initial Court Appearance

During this initial appearance, several steps will be completed:

  1. The judge informs you of your rights. If you appear without an attorney, the judge will notify you of your right to counsel – whether private counsel or a public defender. If you cannot afford an attorney, the judge will also notify you of your right to counsel through the state. Lastly, the judge ensures you understand your rights. If you face a felony (or multiple felonies), the judge also informs you of your right to a preliminary hearing (your right to a preliminary hearing depends upon the class felony with which you are charged)..
  2. The judge sets your bail amount. Based on the charges listed in the complaint, the judge sets bail. We will discuss bond more thoroughly in the next section.

It Is Natural to be Nervous

You are facing criminal charges and a potential jail or prison sentence. Therefore, it is natural to be nervous during an initial court appearance. Try to keep yourself composed despite how you might feel.

Always Be Polite during Any Court Appearance

Regardless of your innocence or guilt and regardless of how nervous you might be, remain polite to everyone involved in the process – including the prosecution. Any time you respond to the judge, return with “Yes, your honor” or “No, your honor” to show your respect.

Being polite offers gains during your initial appearance. Furthermore, ensure you are equally polite to the courtroom clerk. Clerks set schedules, and judges give their clerks incredible power. If you are disrespectful to a courtroom clerk, this can make your case harder and you might find yourself at the end of the docket.

Bail Is Set

Your attorney will need to know a few facts about the case and your personal life to argue for your bail during the initial hearing. The prosecution will attempt to increase the bond amount or request that you are held without bond. Depending on the crime, the judge may hold you without the option of bail or set a high bail amount.

Bail does not mean that you are free. Instead, you are released on a condition. If you fail to appear in court or break any pretrial release condition, you can go to jail until your trial and remain in jail during trial.

Specific factors influence not only the bail amount but whether you receive bail at all, including:

  • Your ties to the community. The purpose of bond is to allow a defendant to continue working or remain with family until their court date, but only with the guarantee they show up to their trial. If you do not have strong ties to the community or the court considers you a flight risk, your chances of pretrial release decrease. Showing you have stable employment, family support, and reasons to stay increase the likelihood of pretrial release.
  • The severity of the crime. Some crimes, such as violent criminal acts, are automatically refused bail. Releasing you on bond may be put the community at risk. Therefore, the judge uses his or her discretion to deny bail if they feel your crime warrants it.
  • The evidence provided by the prosecution. If the evidence presented by the prosecution is weak, the judge may allow bond or bail – even in felony cases. This is where having a good attorney helps. An attorney can poke holes in the case before it even begins and help you avoid sitting in jail waiting for trial.

Arrested for a Crime? Hire an Attorney Immediately

One of the best steps you can take after being arrested is to contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney helps long before your actual trial and will make your initial court appearance one that is less stressful or confusing.

If you have been arrested, regardless of your innocence or guilt, contact Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C. today.

You can schedule a free consultation at 970-704-0888 or request more information online.

Mark Rubinstein

Attorney Mark S. Rubinstein has been practicing law for more than 30 years, including 25 years in Colorado. He founded Mark S. Rubinstein, P.C., in Carbondale after working for law firms in Denver and earlier in his career in San Diego. He focuses his practice in the areas of criminal defense and personal injury representation, and he is well known throughout western Colorado as an effective and unwavering advocate for his clients.