As a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney, the first thing many people ask when they call is what will happen at their first appearance. Although it varies depending on the charge and the county, three things typically happen at your first court appearance:
Let’s talk about each item briefly.
Bail and Conditions of Release
Many people are scared that they’ll be taken away in handcuffs and held in custody throughout their criminal matter. At the first appearance, the judge will consider what conditions are appropriate for release. Generally, if the crime is less severe and if you have no criminal record, no bail will be required. However, the court will consider the possible danger to the community and your potential as a flight risk when setting bail. So, if you have a history of missing court dates, or if the crime involves violence, a higher bail will likely be set. In addition, the judge can impose conditions of release, such as being tested for drugs and alcohol or staying away from the victim throughout the matter.
The Formal Charge
At court you’ll learn the specific charges against you. If the charges are minor, you may only receive a citation with little information about the charge. However, more serious crimes require a complaint. A complaint has a statement of probable cause, which is the State’s allegations supporting the charges. If you want, a judge can also read the charges to you, but in the interest of not creating more publicity and saving time, almost everyone waives the reading.
Finally, the court will want to know what will be done about the case. For more minor crimes, you or your attorney can talk with the prosecutor and see if you can resolve the case. If the case cannot be resolved, the court will set further dates and either check your eligibility for the public defender or ask if you want to get a private attorney.
After the First Appearance
Minnesota’s criminal justice system, whether the crime is for DWI, drugs, prostitution, etc., generally has three phases: 1) initial appearance, 2) pretrial/omnibus, and 3) trial. After the first appearance, your case may proceed to the pretrial/omnibus phase. We’ll talk about what happens there in a future post.