December 20, 2016
After you are arrested on a criminal charge, you are always guaranteed the right to have a first appearance before a judge or a magistrate. The specifics of the first appearance are determined by the type of crime with which you are charged (i.e. felony vs. misdemeanor),, and whether or not you were arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant.
In North Carolina, a first appearance is the first time in which you are appearing before a judge or magistrate after you are charged with a crime. At this first appearance, you as the defendant will be read the charges brought against you, and will also be read your rights, such as the right to remain silent and the right to have an attorney.
If you are arrested for only a misdemeanor, then the district court has jurisdiction over the case, and normally this means that your first appearance will be conducted in front of a district court judge or a magistrate judge. Normally, the magistrate judge will set a court date for district court, which is where an attorney may be appointed if applicable.
If you are arrested without a warrant, then there will also be a probable cause hearing before the magistrate, which means that if the magistrate does not find probable cause, then you will be released. However, if the magistrate or judge agrees with the arresting officer that there is probable cause that you committed the c rime for which you are charged, then a court date will be set. If you are charged, then you will either be held or released on bail, if applicable.
If you are arrested for any felony, even if there are accompanying misdemeanors, this is within the jurisdiction of superior court but will begin in district court until indictment or until a probable cause hearing can be conducted. First appearances for this type of crime are governed by N .C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-601. The statutes states that for cases within the jurisdiction of superior court, first appearances must be brought in front of the district court judge only, and be within 96 hours of arrest or at the next regular session of district court, whichever is earlier.
The defendant in a felony case is also entitled to a probable cause hearing after the first appearance. At the probable cause hearing, the judge will determine whether or not there is probable cause to formally charge the defendant with the felony charge, and therefore send the case from district court to superior court. This will only take place if the defendant has not yet been indicted by a grand jury.
The First Appearance is the first date of many opportunities to address your bail. There are a number of factors that are taken into account, such as your criminal record, your connection to the community, whether or not you are a flight risk, how many and what charges are pending against you, etc. The judge ultimately determines what to do with the issue of bail once either you make an argument or an argument is made on your behalf by an attorney.
Contact King Law Offices today if you are in need of a defense attorney. For more information on what to expect after being arrested for a crime, see the following:
– N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-601
– N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-511