If you have been charged with a criminal misdemeanor, your first Court appearance will be an “Initial Appearance/Arraignment”.
The purpose of your “Initial Appearance/Arraignment” is to inform you of the charge(s) against you and the maximum and minimum penalties of the charge(s). At this time you will enter a plea to the charge(s). You have the following plea options:
NOT GUILTY: A plea of Not Guilty means that you are denying the charge(s) against you and the State will have to prove the charge(s). At this time, you may request court appointed counsel. A Pre-Trial Conference will be set and you will be ordered to appear.
GUILTY: A plea of Guilty means that you are admitting that you did what you are charged with. It will result in a conviction for the charge(s). You may be sentenced at this time or a Judgment & Sentencing will be set at a later date.
NO CONTEST: A plea of No Contest means that you are not admitting or denying guilt for the charge. You are stating that you do not intend to contest the charge(s). In this case, the Judge will find you guilty of the charge(s). It will result in a conviction for the charge(s).
It is mandatory that you attend the Pre-Trial Conference. You should appear with your attorney, if you have one. If you do not attend the Pre-Trial Conference you will be in violation of a court order and a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
The purpose of a Pre-Trial Conference is for you to meet with a Prosecutor to discuss your case. You will get a copy of the police report. The Prosecutor will advise you of the sentence he/she intends to recommend in the event you are convicted. You will have the following choices:
- You can accept the plea agreement with the prosecutor and change your plea to Guilty or No Contest. You will receive a court date for a Change of Plea. At that time, you will be sentenced to the terms that you have agreed to in the plea agreement unless the Judge does not accept it. If this happens, you have a right to withdraw your change of plea.
- If you reject the plea agreement, a Court Trial will be set for your case.
You will appear at the Court Trial with your attorney, if you have one representing you. The Prosecutor will present the State’s case. You or your attorney will have the right to cross-examine each witness for the State. You may testify on your own behalf. If you do testify, you will be subject to cross-examination by the Prosecutor.
If you are found Not Guilty, any bond that you have posted will be refunded. If you are found Guilty, you may be sentenced at that time or set for a sentencing date on another day. If found Guilty, you have the right to appeal the conviction and/or sentence by filing a notice of appeal within fourteen (14) days from the sentencing date. The appeal is a review of the case. You would not automatically receive a new trial.