What is the First Court Appearance?

When you are charged with a crime, you will be given a date for an appearance in court. This first appearance is called the arraignment.

All that happens at the arraignment is that you get called up in front of the judge, they read what you are charged with, and they ask you how you plead: guilty or not guilty. The answer should almost always be “not guilty.” Then they will give you another court date or maybe a few to come back to and then send you on your way. That’s it.

This is the formal beginning of the case in court. It isn’t a time to discuss the case or argue about anything. It’s just: get in, say not guilty, get out. This is because neither the prosecutor nor the judge, at this point, know anything about your case, are not prepared to discuss it, and don’t have time to because there are 50 other people behind you who also need to be arraigned. All you have to remember are the magic words, ‘not guilty.’

Learn more about Criminal Law