After arrest, a person must be brought before a judge without unnecessary delay. This is the initial appearance and is held in front of a magistrate judge. The judge will first confirm that you are the person named in the documents that brought you before the court. They will then inform you of the basis for the arrest, advise you of your rights, address whether there are circumstances that may allow for your release, and consider any application for court-appointed counsel. In our districts, this hearing typically takes place the same or next day.
If an Indictment or Information has already been filed, you will be arraigned. This means the judge will read to you the charges against you and ask you how you plead. At this stage, a not guilty plea will be entered. Your defense team will then have time to review your case and help you determine how to proceed.
A Pretrial Services Officer will visit with you prior to your initial appearance and arraignment. They work for the court. Their job is to prepare a report for the judge recommending whether you should be held in jail or be released pending further proceedings. They will ask about your family, employment, health, and any substance abuse issues or treatment needs. It is okay to answer these questions, but do not lie. If you are uncomfortable with a question, you may choose not to answer. The officer will also look up and include in the report any prior arrests or convictions you may have. However, they should not ask you about those or about the events leading to your arrest and charge. Do not discuss anything about your pending case, what led to your arrest, or any other illegal activity with the Pretrial Services Officer, including prior arrests. Anything you say to the probation officer can be used against you at trial or sentencing.