Initial Appearance

Definition - What does Initial Appearance mean?

The first step for a defendant in a criminal case is the initial appearance. In many jurisdictions, the initial appearance is called an arraignment.

At the initial appearance, the defendant is read the charge, has the associated penalties explained, is advised of their right to counsel, and may enter a plea. As long as the defendant has not pleaded guilty, bail is set at the initial appearance.

Justipedia explains Initial Appearance

Although very little is usually decided at an initial appearance, it is an important part of the criminal justice process.

After a person has been arrested and taken to jail, the initial appearance is when a criminal defendant may challenge the strength of the accusations made against them.

Unless the defendant is arrested in a jurisdiction for a less serious crime that has a standard bail schedule for the specific crime that the defendant is arrested for, the initial appearance notifies what the defendant must do to be released from jail. Usually, the defendant must pay a certain amount of money as bail; and, the more serious the offense, the more expensive the bail.

In felony cases, defendants usually do not enter a plea. For felonies, at the initial appearance, the matter is scheduled for a preliminary hearing, which allows the defendant an early chance to confront the evidence brought against them.

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