First Appearance Hearings
What is First Appearance?
First Appearance is just that. It is the person's first appearance before a judge after the arrest. The First Appearance must be within 24 hours of the arrest, regardless of whether the person was arrested on a warrant or on probably cause. The person must be given an opportunity to confer with counsel. So, what most people don't know is that you have a right to ask the judge to pass your case so you can obtain an attorney. Or if you can obtain an attorney before your first appearance, to have that attorney represent you at First Appearance.
What happens at First Appearance?
At First Appearance, the judge shall:
- inform you of the charges,
- provide you with a copy of the complaint,
- advise you that anything you say can be used against you,
- advise you that you have the right to an attorney and if you can't afford one, an attorney will be appointed for you,
- advise you that you have a right to communicate with your attorney, family or friends,
- appoint an attorney, if you can't afford one,
- postpone first appearance if you inform the judge you intend to hire an attorney and want that attorney for the first appearance.
What really happens at First Appearance court?
So that's the law, but really happens at First Appearance. In the real world, there are too many people and there is not enough time to give each person a lot of time to be heard at their first appearance. So, typically, each case lasts only a few minutes. The judge will usually quickly make a probable cause determination and set your bond and move on to the next case. Sometimes, the judge will make an offer and you will have only a matter of moments to make a decision that can affect the rest of your life. We've had many callers come in after pleading guilty at First Appearance and ask if they can withdraw their plea after they had time to reflect on what happened in court. This usually is not possible. So the moral of the story is - don't plead guilty at first appearance court without consulting with an attorney.
After First Appearance and after probable cause is determined and bond is set, the case will be passed for arraignment.