Things move very quickly after you have been arrested or cited for a crime, and, while it is understandable to be frightened and paralyzed, you need to make sure you swiftly take the steps necessary to protect yourself and mitigate any damage that has already occurred. Perhaps the most important thing you can do, aside from exercising your right to remain silent, is to contact an experienced Utah initial appearance hearing lawyer like those at Overson Law, PLLC. You will want to do this as soon as possible so that you are represented at your first or initial appearance, which will occur not long after your arrest. Below, our attorneys explain what happens at a first appearance in Utah criminal court and how we can assist you at this appearance and throughout your entire criminal case.
Do I Need an Attorney for an Initial Appearance in Utah Criminal Court?
The answer to this question is yes. It is very important that you retain a lawyer as soon as possible, especially if you have been arrested, so that you will have representation at your initial appearance as well as your bail hearing. The initial court appearance occurs within 72 hours of your arrest, but usually sooner unless it is a weekend or a holiday. The bail hearing typically occurs at or around the same time. As such, you or a loved one must act quickly to retain a skilled Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC, or you could end up facing these vital proceedings without the advice of skilled legal counsel and making serious errors that could permanently jeopardize your case.
How Does the First Appearance in Utah Criminal Court Work?
At your first appearance in court, the judge will read the charges against you and explain your rights during a criminal case, including a right to counsel if you have not already retained a lawyer. In misdemeanor cases, you will also be arraigned, meaning asked to enter an initial plea of guilty or not guilty. One of the reasons it is important to have a skilled Utah attorney for a criminal arraignment is that we are near-certain to advise you to enter a not guilty plea at this point while we collect all the evidence and assess the strength of the state’s case against you. If you do not have a lawyer, you could be made to feel like it is your best option to simply plead guilty, which is rarely the case. If you ultimately decide to plead guilty, your initial plea can easily be changed.
As noted above, if you are incarcerated the bail hearing will usually occur at or around the same time as the initial appearance. You will definitely want a skilled Utah bail hearing attorney like those at Overson Law, PLLC representing you at this hearing, where a judge will make a decision about whether you can be released or if you must be held in jail while the underlying case is resolved. If the judge chooses to release you, they will decide if bail needs to be set and what amount it should be set at. Our experienced attorneys know how to make the most persuasive arguments to get the judge to release you on little to no bail, based on such factors as your criminal history or lack thereof, assessed flight risk, ties to the community, and the severity of the alleged crime.
What Happens After the Initial Appearance in a Utah Criminal Case?
Unless you plead guilty or the charges are dropped at your first appearance, the case will continue. In felony matters, there will be an optional preliminary hearing where the prosecutor will be required to show probable cause for their case, and then the formal arraignment will occur where you will enter your initial plea. After this, for both felony and misdemeanor matters, our skilled criminal defense attorneys at Overson Law, PLLC will request any outstanding evidence, file any motions like a motion to exclude evidence obtained as a result of an illegal search and seizure, and begin trying to work out a deal with the prosecutor for your charges to be downgraded or dismissed.
If you have a minimal or non-existent criminal record, we may be able to convince the prosecutor to allow you into a pre-trial diversion program or to enter a plea in abeyance. A pre-trial diversion program will involve different components depending on the specific charge, such as completing alcohol counseling for a disorderly conduct charge involving drinking. If you complete the program successfully, the charges against you will be dropped and you will not have a criminal record. Similarly, if you agree to a plea in abeyance and stay out of trouble for the required period of time, usually no more than a year, the plea will not be entered and the charges will be dismissed.
In cases where outright dismissal is not possible, we can work to get the prosecutor to agree to downgrade the charge to something less serious, such as from aggravated assault to simple assault. We can also try to work out a deal where the prosecutor recommends a lenient sentence to the judge in exchange for you pleading guilty and saving the state the time and cost of a trial. Of course, if you do not wish to take a deal, our skilled trial lawyers are more than ready to fight for a not guilty verdict at your trial.
If You Are Facing a First (Initial) Appearance in a Utah Criminal Case, Contact Our Skilled Defense Lawyers Right Away
The initial appearance occurs quickly after your arrest, but it can have implications that are very far-reaching for your case, especially if you enter the wrong plea. This is why it is vital for you or a loved one to contact an experienced Utah first / initial appearance attorneys as soon as possible after your arrest. We will work to deal with your first appearance and bail hearing and the turn our focus to dealing with the underlying charges against you. Call us today at (801) 758-2287for free consultation.