What to Expect During Your Initial Appearance in Federal Court?

After you surrender or are arrested by federal law enforcement, you will immediately (usually within 24 hours) be brought before a United States Magistrate Judge for your initial appearance (this may also be referred to as 'first appearance'). You should note that initial appearances occur before a Magistrate Judge and take place the business day after the arrest or surrender. At this hearing the judge will read, explain, or list the offense(s) that you are being charged with.  You will be informed of your rights and the judge will ask whether you are able to hire a lawyer to represent you or if you would need a court-appointed lawyer.  In order to have a lawyer appointed by the court, you will have to qualify for one based on your responses to the court’s questions and by demonstrating a need given a lack of financial resources to retain counsel.

If you have already hired a federal criminal defense attorney to represent you, they will likely appear on your behalf at the initial appearance and inform the court as to the scope of representation (i.e. whether they’re representing you for the initial appearance and bond purposes or if they are entering a permanent appearance to be your lawyer through the end of the case).

In addition to sorting out that you are the person named on the criminal charging document as well as who your legal counsel will be, the court will then address the issue of bond.  At the initial appearance you can either receive a bond and be released (either one set by the Magistrate Judge or as part of an agreement between your lawyer and the government), or the government may ask for pretrial detention.  In this case, a detention hearing will usually be set no later than five (5) days from the date of your initial appearance.

If you are here today because you feel frustrated about an upcoming initial appearance in federal court or issues having to do with bond and pretrial release and it is disrupting your life, we should talk.  Set up a Free 4-Point Case Evaluation and Defense Strategy Session with me by first calling (305) 707-7345.  The sooner we talk, the sooner you will have clarity on what you face—and just a little clarity can take away a lot of the stress.

Daniel Izquierdo
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Criminal Defense Attorney