Your initial appearance in front of a judge may serve several purposes. If a prosecutor has already obtained a grand jury indictment, this initial appearance may be to explain the charges you face, set bond or bail, and recognize your attorney.
If the prosecutor in your case has yet to obtain a federal grand jury indictment (perhaps because you are facing a misdemeanor), your initial appearance may allow the judge to rule on your arrest. The prosecutor may need to justify why you were arrested, at which time the judge may explain the charges against you and set bail or bond.
Your Initial Appearance Must Occur Within a Reasonable Time After Your Arrest
Whether you turn yourself in or law enforcement authorities arrest you unexpectedly, you will face detention before your initial appearance. Defendants facing federal charges in New Jersey should make the most of this detention period by contacting their attorney.
In the interim between your detention and your initial appearance before a judge, your attorney may:
- Visit you in the detention facility, speak with you on the phone, or both
- Explain what they know about the charges you face
- Explain the plan for your initial appearance and arraignment
- Help arrange for you to post bond or bail following the initial appearance
- Listen to any requests you have for them, such as contacting your loved ones
The Office of the United States Attorneys explains that an initial appearance generally takes place “the same day or the day after arrest” and should occur no more than 72 hours following arrest.
What Will Happen During an Initial Appearance in New Jersey District Court?
Once the date of your initial appearance arrives, you should already be prepared for what lies ahead thanks to your attorney. Your lawyer may have already explained the charges against you, what type of bail or bond they expect the prosecutor to seek (if any), your rights during the appearance, and how the attorney will help you.
During an initial appearance (including both arraignment and a bail hearing), you can generally expect:
- The magistrate—a judge who will not be the judge presiding over any later trial—to explain your rights
- The judge to recognize your attorney, and confirm with you that this is the attorney you want representing you
- The magistrate to explain the charges that the federal government has filed against you
- To enter a plea, which you will have discussed beforehand with your attorney
- The prosecutor to request a specific bail amount (which can include no bail), and conditions of your release
- Your attorney to seek the most favorable bail conditions possible, and to explain why you deserve those specific bail conditions
Federal bail hearings occur after the defendant has entered a plea. If you and your attorney have not agreed to a plea bargain before arraignment, you will enter a not guilty plea. Then, the judge will consider the prosecutor's proposed bail conditions as well as your attorney's—this specific phase of the initial appearance is the bail hearing.
What Should a Defendant Do During Their Initial Appearance?
At some point during your initial hearing, the magistrate will inform you of your right to remain silent. As your attorney will likely advise, it is generally smart to exercise this right.
You will need to enter a plea. For most defendants, this will be the extent of their participation during the initial appearance. Your attorney should do the rest, as this will ensure that you do not say or do anything that damages your defense.
Hire an Attorney to Represent You During Your Initial Appearance
Every word that you say following your arrest can be life-changing. You will want to have a clear plan as soon as you have been arrested, and certainly before your arraignment and bail hearing begin. A lawyer can guide you through the initial appearance phase of your federal case in New Jersey and the pivotal stages to follow.
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.