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Court Appearances

General Information on Court Appearances

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, you will have your day, and often times days, in court. Here’s what you need to know about court appearances.

What is a bail hearing?

At a bail hearing, the court will discuss whether you will be released pending trial, whether bail will be required, and what the conditions of your release will be. Bail and conditions of release vary depending on the safety of the public, the severity of the crime, your criminal history, the potential risk of flight, your ties to the community, and other factors that may relate to whether you will appear for court in the future.

What is an arraignment?

The arraignment is designed to either take initial information or enter a plea. Sometimes bail and conditions of release are set. A pre-trial or omnibus hearing is scheduled if the case cannot be resolved.

What is a pre-trial hearing?

The pre-trial hearing is an opportunity for your lawyer and the prosecutor to discuss a settlement. If a settlement cannot be obtained, the lawyers and the judge will discuss trial issues and set a trial date.

What is an omnibus hearing?

Your attorney may schedule an omnibus hearing to challenge any constitutional issue in your case (such as an illegal stop, search, or statement), or to challenge whether there is enough evidence to go forward to trial. When this hearing takes place depends on the county. Some counties have the omnibus before the pre-trial and trial, while other counties do it the day of trial.

What is a trial?

A trial is the final determination of your guilt or innocence. Often the case may still be settled before the Trial starts.

How many jurors do I get at trial?

If you are charged with a petty-misdemeanor, your case will be decided by a judge. This is called a court trial. If you are charged with a misdemeanor or gross-misdemeanor, you may have either a jury of 6 peers or a court trial. If you are charged with a felony, you may have either a jury of 12 peers or a court trial. You and your lawyer will decide together what is best for your case.

What are my rights at trial?

At trial, you have the right to either remain silent or testify on your own behalf. The choice is up to you. If you decide not to testify, this is not an admission of guilt; no one can comment on the fact that you chose to stay silent. You also are allowed to cross-examine the state's witnesses, and you have the right to subpoena your own witnesses. Finally, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury is required to render a unanimous verdict of "guilty" or "not guilty." If a unanimous verdict cannot be reached, the judge may declare a hung jury, and a new trial would then take place.

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