When you face criminal charges, your first defense hearing can be overwhelming. This initial encounter with the legal system sets the stage for your entire case.
Understanding what happens during this initial hearing is important so you can show up prepared.
Your first criminal defense hearing will take place in a courtroom. Expect a formal setting with the judge presiding over the proceedings, and make sure to remain respectful and attentive throughout the hearing.
Charges, rights and plea options
During the hearing, the court reads the charges against you aloud. After this occurs, you enter your plea. You generally have three options: guilty, not guilty or no contest (which means you neither admit nor deny the charges but accept the punishment).
The judge may discuss bail at the first hearing, which is a sum of money or a bond paid to secure your release from custody until your trial. The judge will assess flight risk and the severity of the charges in determining whether to grant bail and at what amount.
In 2020, New York reformed the legislation surrounding bail. Had this legislation been in place in the previous year, an estimated 80,000 people would have avoided jail incarceration.
Future court dates
After the initial hearing, the court will schedule more dates for your case. This may include pre-trial conferences, motion hearings or a trial date.
The outcome of your first defense hearing can vary depending on your plea, the judge’s decisions on bail and other circumstances. It may result in your release, continued detention or other conditions set by the court.
Be prepared to answer any questions posed by the judge or prosecutor. Dress appropriately and conduct yourself with respect for the court’s proceedings.