First Appearance 101

The idea of going to court for the first time can be a very scary thing especially when coupled with the fact that there is little to no time to. Whether it is your first time ever, or your first time for this infraction, there are a lot of unknowns especially when thinking about the future. Even though this is a stressful time, it can be made manageable once you know the facts. Following the necessary steps, talking to the right people and communicating clearly will mean that the first appearance is not as scary and complicated as it may seem.

The Opposite of a Disappearing Act

First appearances must legally occur within 24 hours of the defendant being taken into custody. This means that there is an incredibly fast turnaround from when you are taken in to when you appear before a judge to enter your plea. The typical first appearance will follow a very specific format. The judge will first ask you if you want your charges read to you, meaning that they will recount the crime that you are being accused of. If you understand the charge, you can opt to not have the charge read; however, if you don’t understand the charge, you should ask for it to be read.

Next, you will be asked how you would like to plead at your trial. There are three options, guilty, not guilty, and nolo contendere or “no contest” which means you do not admit to the crime but is carried out the same way as a guilty plea. The good news is you don’t have to go through this alone, even if you cannot afford a lawyer, the judge will appoint one for you on that day and you will have an opportunity to speak with them to understand your options. In addition to this, before you officially plead, you will be able to request what is called ‘disclosure’ from the prosecutor which contains all documents used as evidence of your guilt if you would like to see the basis of their case.

Be Real, Be Ready

As you approach the time of your first appearance, be sure to call a lawyer or prepare to enter a request at your trial for a court-appointed lawyer if you cannot afford or hire a lawyer independently. After this, the time approaching your first appearance is a waiting game. After you figure out what your plea will be, the best thing to do is let yourself relax and stay calm before the appearance. There are many stressful factors of being detained and knowing that you are going to have a first appearance soon but working yourself up into an emotional frenzy will not help. Taking some deep breaths and accepting what is happening is the first step to constructively approaching the rest of the legal processes associated with being charged for a crime.

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to plead innocent, guilty, or nolo contendere, you should always speak with your lawyer to fully understand your situation. After your first appearance occurs, you will likely be able to have a bail hearing within 72 hours of being taken into custody. If you or a loved one is in the situation where a first appearance and bail hearing are imminent and you need more information, contact Mercy Bail Bonds for a deeper explanation of the process and advice on how to proceed.