Can I go to my first court appearance without an attorney?
You are not always taken into custody (jail) when you are arrested. Sometimes, the officer issues you a citation for the crime, which either includes a date that you are to appear in court, OR gives you a deadline to make arrangements for that first appearance. This applies to those instances.
This first appearance is called an arraignment. What happens here?The arraignment is the hearing where the judge will determine if there is probable cause to proceed with the charges. If probable cause is determined to exist, then you will be expected to enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty." The judge will also set "release conditions" which you must abide by until your case is resolved (at a later hearing).
Will I be taken into custody (jail) at this hearing?Probably not. If you do not have any outstanding warrants, and if this new charge is not a probation violation from another charge, then you will not be taken into custody. The hearing will be quick and uneventful. The longest part of the hearing is waiting until it is your turn for your hearing.
Do I need an attorney at this hearing?If the charge is a DUI or a Domestic Violence charge, it is best to have an attorney present with you at this hearing. There will be public defense attorneys present, and you may be able to consult with them if you qualify financially. If you do not qualify for a public defender, then you will need to hire private counsel. It is best if you can hire your attorney PRIOR to the arraignment so he/she can be present with you in case there is an argument to be made against the finding of probable cause, or to argue against any release conditions that are unreasonable or unnecessary. If the charge is a misdemeanor OTHER than a DUI or Domestic Violence, then an attorney can submit a Notice of Appearance and a Plea of "not guilty" on your behalf prior to the hearing date and the hearing would be waived.
What if I cannot hire an attorney prior to my arraignment?If it is not possible to have an attorney prior to your arraignment, you may go alone. It is IMPERATIVE that you resist the temptation to defend yourself at this hearing. Do not say ANYTHING other than to verify your name and address and to enter your plea of "not guilty." Any explanation you attempt to give will most likely harm your case, as most "explanations" constitute "confessions." Just be patient, enter your plea, get your next court date, and then go hire an attorney. There will be plenty of time for explanations later.