What is an Initial Hearing?

An initial hearing is a formality, the first time a Defendant comes before the Court (Judge). It is the judge's responsibility to be sure you understand your constitutional rights, the possible penalties for the class of crime (such as A Misdemeanor, B Felony) of which you have been accused, and whether you have an attorney or whether you request the Court appoint a public defender. The judge will also ask you if you plead guilty or not guilty. At this point, always plead not guilty to protect your rights.


What do I need to do to prepare for my initial hearing?

If you plan on hiring an attorney, you should do so before your initial hearing. If you do, your attorney should "waive" the Initial Hearing--that means cancel it with the Court--because your attorney will explain your rights and enter his or her appearance on your behalf, which means there is no reason to have an Initial Hearing.


What if I want a public defender?

At the Initial Hearing the judge will ask if you request a public defender, and then ask a series of questions regarding your income and assets to see if you qualify. If you do qualify, the judge will appoint a public defender, and you will then have to set up an appointment to meet your public defender. Some counties are generous with their public defenders, others are not.


Do I have to worry about something bad happening at my Initial Hearing?

The most important thing is to plead not guilty. Other than that, nothing of substance will happen at the initial hearing, other than deciding if you will hire an attorney or ask one be appointed. Best of all, if you already have an attorney, the Initial Hearing will be waived and you won't have to worry about it.