What is “First Appearance” in NC Criminal Law
In a Criminal Law case, one concern of people is what to expect on their first court date. For people that have never been in trouble before, your first appearance in court can be a stressful experience.
Most state court criminal law cases progress the same way. Normally at a person’s first appearance the Judge will advise you of your right to remain silent, right to counsel, advise you of the charges against you and the potential punishment you face.
The Judge will give you three choices: 1). you can hire your own criminal defense attorney; 2). request a public defender; or 3). represent yourself. Of the three choices, representing yourself is a bad idea. If you are indigent the court can assign you to the public defender or appointed counsel. If you wish to hire an attorney we would suggest that you make those arraignments prior to your first appearance.
If you are in custody, under N.C.G.S. § 15A-601, you must have a first appearance within 96 hours. In a non-captal case (i.e. First Degree Murder where the State is seeking the Death penalty) a first appearance can be made via audio and video. When you have your first appearance, the judge will advise you of your rights as mentioned above. The judge will set a date for a probable cause hearing and perhaps a bond hearing at the first appearance.
With the assistance of counsel you may be able to have issues related to your bond and or release discussed with the court.