WHAT TO DO BEFORE YOUR FIRST COURT DATE?
One of the first questions that many of my clients will ask me is what they should do after their arrest but before their first court appearance. As an award winning criminal defense attorney, I can understand how nervous people can be before going to court for the first time. Unfortunately, I have seen many people fail to take steps that could help their chances of a favorable outcome. This blog will focus on answering several legal issues that can arise before the first court date. One of the initial questions to answer is whether or not you were released from custody before your first criminal court date.
1. If you were arrested and did not bail out or get released before your arraignment
If an individual remains in custody after they are arrested, the prosecutor’s office will generally have two court days (weekends and court holidays do not count) to file charges. If they fail to do so within that time period, then the individual will be released from custody as long as there are no other matters (such as warrants, immigration issues, or a mental health hold) that are keeping them in custody. The prosecutor’s office will often still file charges at a later point after the person is released from custody. In many situations, the prosecutor may ask the police to do more investigation before they make a final decision on charges. For the reasons expanded upon below, this is a crucial time to hire defense counsel.
2. If you were arrested and bailed out or were released before your arraignment
If an individual bails out or is released after being arrested and before being seen in court for their arraignment, then they will often be given a future date to appear in court. This court date can vary from a matter of days to several months. The person is agreeing to appear in court on that date as a condition of being allowed to bail out from jail. The prosecutor’s office will then review the case and determine what charges to formally file with the court. This is a crucial period to consult with a local criminal defense attorney. I have seen too many cases where individuals wait until after their court appearance date to hire a defense lawyer. It is imperative to consult with your attorney and discuss any helpful evidence or information before that first date. The reason for this is that an experienced criminal attorney will evaluate the information provided and determine whether or not to provide some or all of that information to the prosecutor. This information can often be used to prevent criminal charges from being filed or result in less serious charges being filed. The analogy I often use is that it is easier to prevent a knot from being tied in the first place, rather than attempting to untie that knot at a later point. In the majority of cases, the arraignment will then take place on the appearance date provided when they were released on bail. Occasionally, the prosecutors will not have made a filing decision by that date and it becomes necessary to check in frequently with the prosecutors’ office to learn the status of the case. This is another period when it is especially helpful to have a criminal defense attorney by your side to try and avoid a situation where you may be arrested at home, school, or work.
The period between an arrest and your initial court appearance is a vital time to begin mounting your criminal defense. This is your best opportunity to aggressively attack the potential threats to your reputation and freedom. As an experienced criminal defense attorney and a former senior district attorney, I know how important this period of the criminal process is to a final outcome. Contact me directly today to set up a free consultation so that I can learn more about your specific case and begin building a plan of attack.