First or Initial Appearance

If you have been arrested on a criminal charge in the Florida state judicial system, you will face a series of legal steps that have been put in place to protect your constitutional rights. The first hearing is often referred to as the arraignment, and the judge and prosecutor must ensure that the processes are followed according to regulation.

What Occurs During The First Or Initial Appearance?

The initial appearance is the first opportunity for defendants to hear and understand their rights as their case progresses through the federal justice system.

  • The judge reads the details of the case to determine whether the government had sufficient probable cause for making the arrest.
  • The judge advises the defendant of the charges filed against him or her.
  • The defendant enters a formal plea to the charges, which can be guilty, not guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). Pleading no contest is not an admission of guilt but carries with it the same effect as a conviction.
  • The judge advises the defendant of the right to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney. If the defendant cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint defense counsel from the public defender's office.
  • The judge listens to arguments from the prosecutor and defense lawyer regarding pretrial confinement, then considers whether bail is appropriate or the defendant should be held in custody, pending trial. Defendants granted pretrial release may be required to obey certain restrictions to protect the community, such as home confinement or drug testing, in addition to making periodic reports to a pretrial service officer to ensure appearance at trial.

Why You Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer Present At Your Initial Hearing

It is important to have an experienced attorney you trust present to advise you of your rights and explain your options before your first hearing. This will be your lawyer's first opportunity to prepare arguments regarding your pretrial release, amount of bail required and the specifics of the charges against you.

Contact Our Office In Orlando Or Tampa

If you are facing federal criminal charges in the U.S. Southern District or Middle District of Florida, turn to O'Brien Hatfield, PA, for experienced criminal defense counsel. Call us at (813) 228-6989 or send an email to explain your circumstances. We offer a free initial consultation and have Spanish interpreters available.