How to Prepare for Your Court Appearance
Being arrested or charged with a crime is a harrowing experience. Most people will not have much experience with the inside of a courtroom; it is intimidating at the best of times, without the added stress and fear connected to grappling with criminal charges and the possible ramifications of a conviction. If you are facing your first court appearance, there are a few steps you can take to prepare. Continue reading for tips on how to prepare for your first court appearance, and call a seasoned Ventura criminal defense attorney if you have been arrested for a crime in southern California.
What to expect at your initial court appearance
Your initial court appearance, whether you remained in custody or were released on bail or your own recognizance, is likely to be fairly brief. The initial appearance in California is known as an arraignment, and it will follow an arrest. At your arraignment, the following will occur:
● The judge will advise you of your Constitutional rights, including your right to a lawyer if you do not already have one with you.
● You will find out the specific charges against you.
● You will have an opportunity to enter a plea. Typically, you will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (no contest).
● The court will then set, modify, reinstate, or exonerate your bail.
The arraignment will happen only after the prosecutor has filed formal charges against you. If you are in custody, you must be arraigned within 48 hours of your arrest. If you have been released on bail or your own recognizance, your arraignment will likely take place later, typically at least ten days after the arrest and even longer if it is a felony arrest.
Preparing for your initial court appearance
If you have been arrested, the first thing you should do is contact a criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer will find out whatever they can about the charges pending against you and will provide you with advice and representation from the moment after arrest through trial.
Before your initial appearance, it is important that you fully understand the charges brought against you as well as the possible punishments for conviction, and any other additional consequences. Discuss the charges with your lawyer and ask any questions that you can think of. Depending on the charges, a conviction may have an impact on your immigration status, your professional licensing, your employability, and your housing. Ask your attorney what a conviction might mean for you and what types of plea bargains defendants in your situation typically receive.
Depending on your circumstances, your attorney may be able to get the charges reduced significantly and even help you avoid jail time. If you are a first-time offender, you may be eligible for diversionary programs that allow you to fulfill certain conditions and get the charges dropped entirely. You should know going into the arraignment what plea you plan to enter, having discussed the matter with your criminal defense lawyer.
With your initial questions answered, the rest of your preparation for court is more mundane. You want to make a strong impression before the court and the prosecutor. Plan your route to court ahead of time, take the day off from work, and make any other arrangements necessary to make sure that you arrive early and ready to go. Do your best to appear formal: Dress nicely, shave, etc. It always helps to show the court that you are taking the matter seriously. Be courteous and professional. Avoid contact with co-defendants or other potential criminal associates. Your California criminal defense lawyer can provide you with more specific guidance, based on your circumstances.
Defend Against Criminal Charges in Oxnard and Ventura County
If you are facing criminal charges in southern California, get dedicated, experienced, and compassionate legal help by contacting the Ventura offices of Paul Tyler for a free consultation at 805-889-9000.