Initial Appearance and Arraignment

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An “Initial Appearance” is exactly what it sounds like, it is the first appearance you will make in court. An initial appearance happens on misdemeanor and felony cases if a citation or direct complaint has been filed against you. It is an opportunity for the judge to:

  1. ask you your name and address;
  2. inform you of the charges against you;
  3. inform you of your various constitutional rights;
  4. consider any view or comments offered by an alleged victim concerning the issues of Release (this usually only occurs on assault and domestic violence charges);
  5. and to determine the conditions of “Release.”

Judges will often ask you if you intend to hire an attorney or if you want to be provided a public defender. If you ask for a public defender, the judge will have you fill out a questionnaire to determine if you qualify for a public defender, and if so, if you should have to pay a small fee for the public defender.

If you initially ask for a public defender, you can always change your mind about this and retain private counsel.

The judge will give you a new court date at the conclusion of your initial appearance.

THIS IS NOT AN OPPORTUNITY TO TELL THE JUDGE YOUR SIDE OF THE STORY!!! Unfortunately, and to the surprise of many, a judge does not have the power to dismiss a case unless there are valid legal reasons.


An “Arraignment” is similar to an initial appearance but this hearing occurs after you have been indicted. An indictment only occurs in felony cases.

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