Saturday, March 23, 2013

First Court Appearances (Explained)

As a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, one of the first questions I get is: What will happen in court - at the first appearance?  Although it varies depending on the charge and the county, three things typically happen at your first court appearance:

  1. Bail or conditions of release will be set
  2. You will be formally charged
  3. Arrangements are made for the next hearing

1. Bail and Conditions of Release

Many people are scared that they’ll be taken away in handcuffs and held in custody throughout their criminal matter --- this is rarely the case.  At the first appearance, a judge will consider what conditions are appropriate for release.  Generally, if the crime is not a felony - or does not implicate public safety - and if the offender does not have a criminal record, no bail will be required.  However, the court will consider the possible danger to the community and your potential as a flight risk when setting bail.  So, if you have a history of missing court dates, or if the crime you're alleged to have committed involves violence, a higher bail will likely be set.  In addition, the judge can impose conditions of release, such as being tested for drugs and alcohol or to stay from a particular place or person. 

2. The Formal Charge

At the first court appearance, you’ll also (formally) be told the specific charge(s) you face.  If the charges are minor, you may only receive a citation with little information about the charge.  However, more serious crimes require a complaint.  A complaint has a statement of probable cause, which is the State’s allegations supporting the charges.  If you want, a judge can also read the charges to you, but in the interest of not creating more publicity and saving time, almost everyone waives the reading.

3. Future Arrangements

Finally, the court will want to know what will be done about the case.  For more minor crimes, you or your attorney can talk with the prosecutor and see if you can resolve the case.  If the case cannot be resolved, the court will set further dates and either check your eligibility for the public defender or ask if you want to get a private attorney.

You don't have to go through this alone.  If you or someone you love needs help with a first appearance, call the Rolloff Law Office.  not only can we answer your questions - we also offer FREE CONSULTATIONS.  Call today: (612) 234-1165

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