There are four things you need to know about the "first appearance" in any felony or misdemeanor criminal case in Idaho. The "first appearance" is is often called an arraignment, although in a felony case no plea is entered by the defendant. If a defendant is in custody, the first appearance may by done by video. In Idaho, that first appearance will occur before a magistrate judge, and he or she will start the case process. Here are four things you need to know if you are headed to court for a first appearane:
1. The court is going to give you an outline of the charges against you and a court document that identifies the crimes alleged. Those charges my change over time; perhaps a felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor, but the key here is to understand generally the context of the charges.
2. The court will want to know whether you need a public defender to be appointed or if you intend to hire an attorney. The other option is for you to go it alone – pro se. Don’t do that if the charges are more serious than driving too fast. Get a lawyer!
3.The first appearance really makes a difference with respect to your bond. More serious charges typically result in a higher bond. This hearing is your first chance to impact on the bond and how much money you will have post before you get out pending trial.
4. Every chance you get to make an appearance before the court is a chance to make an impression. Show the judge and the prosecutor that you understand how serious the case is. Be respectful. Have a family presence if possible. If you are not in jail, show up looking like you belong on the streets – in other words – no "public enemy" t-shirt, no skirt so short that it makes everyone uncomfortable, and no dirty jeans. Show the court you understand this is a serious.
The truth is, every appearance before a court is an opportunity. As my pal John says: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
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