What Happens at Your First Court Appearance?

After you are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor crime, what happens at your first court date? Your first day in court is called an arraignment. Depending on the jurisdiction of the case, the following are some items that are typically addressed at the arraignment:

  1. We will make a general appearance on your behalf. That means that we will announce that we represent you and your legal interest, thus becoming your attorney of record.
  2. The court formally announces the charge(s) against you in the complaint. A complaint is the legal document filed by the District Attorney that charges(s) individuals of criminal wrong doing. The judge will then formally read the charges against you and advise you of your rights.
  3. In most jurisdictions, we will waive formal reading of the complaint and advisement of rights. This is done to save time and we will have already discussed with you what the complaint states and your rights.
  4. Unless there is a strategic reason, we will waive your right to a speedy trial. This will be discussed between you to determine what is best for you based on the facts and legal issues in your case. Usually extending time gives us the opportunity to build a defense and attempt to get the District Attorney to dismiss your case or mitigate it to something less serious.
  5. Unless you plan to settle your case at the arraignment (which is rarely done), a not guilty plea will be entered and your case will be set for a future court date. Depending on the jurisdiction and the charge(s) against you, your appearance may not be required at future court appearances and we will appear on your behalf.
  6. Your custodial status will be addressed if you are still in custody at the arraignment. This may lead to a formal own recognizance release and bail hearing.
  7. The court may issue a protective order such as a peaceful contact or no contact order. This is typically done in domestic violence cases, family violence, child molest, rape, or other matters in which the court feels the victim needs protection.
  8. The arraignment triggers the discovery rules and requires the District Attorney provide your attorney of record with all of the evidence in your case.