What happens at my first Court hearing after arrest in DC

Mark RollinsCriminal Law

What happens at my first court hearing in DC

What to expect at my first Court hearing after arrest in DC?

So, you were arrested last night and the police officer released you and now you must appear in DC Superior Court.    So what will happen at your first hearing?   Should you hire a lawyer now?   Your first hearing after being arrested and released on citation is called your arraignment date.  Arraignment is the court formally telling you that are charged with a crime.

Right to a Criminal defense lawyer

If you have not hired a lawyer, you have a right and you should be represented by a lawyer at your arraignment date.   If you cannot afford a criminal lawyer the court will appoint a criminal lawyer to represent you.   It is better for the lawyer to do the talking even at the first hearing because everything you say at the first court hearing date is being recorded by the Court.  So even though you do not see a recording device, everything in the courtroom is being recorded.

Notice of the Charges

The judge or the courtroom clerk will tell  you what charges the prosecutor has filed against you, advise you of your rights under the United States Constitution and give you a copy of the written charges, also called an information.

Initial Plea

At your first court hearing, you will be given an opportunity to enter a plea of not guilty.  Under no circumstances should you enter a plea of guilty at your first hearing without consulting with a lawyer.  Even if you are guilty as sin because there may other options such as diversion available.   Once  you plead not guilty the court will schedule a status hearing.    Some charges may be set for trial without requesting a status hearing.

Setting of Trial Tracks

If on your arraignment date you have entered a plea of not guilty the prosecutor will provide written information and documents that give you and your  lawyer  notice of the charge against you and a summary of the facts  that are the basis for the charge.  This  is called  a “discovery” package.  The prosecutor also may make  a plea offer or an offer of diversion.  The judge will also decide,  with input from the prosecutor and your defense attorney, whether the trial will be a complex trial or a non-complex trial  and schedule future dates accordingly.

Setting of Release Conditions

At the conclusion of arraignment, the judge may order that you follow certain conditions of release.    For example, the judge may order that you not drive without a valid permit, or that you stay away from a certain location, or not consume alcohol, or report to the  Pretrial  Services Agency  (PSA) for appropriate supervision while your case is pending. If you violate a condition of release you may be arrested again and charged  with  a new crime for violating  the condition of release.  It is very common in DUI charges in the District of Columbia that the Judge order you to be evaluated for drug and alcohol treatment.

Notice to Return to Court

At the end of your hearing, the judge will have you sign written notice to return to court.  You will not have any other notice other than than this.   If you  fail to appear for your next court date, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.

Need Help at Arraignment or citation return date

If you need more information or want representation at your first court hearing date please give us a call, text, or email.

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