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What can you expect at a First Appearance hearing?

What can you expect at a First Appearance hearing?

After you have been booked into the jail after an arrest you can expect to be scheduled for a first appearance hearing. If you post bond before the first appearance hearing you will not have a first appearance hearing.  The law enforcement officer in charge of your custody will bring you before magistrate judge. If you were not arrested on an arrest warrant, you must be brought before a magistrate or other judicial officer within 48 hours of your arrest. If not, the jail must release you (providing that you do not have any other pending holds).  If you were arrested on an arrest warrant, then you must be brought before magistrate or other judicial officer within 72 hours of your arrest. If not, the jail must release you (providing that you do not have any other pending holds). All the jails have magistrates 7 days a week to ensure that first appearance hearings are held on time.

The purpose of the first appearance hearing is to inform you of the following:

  • the charges against you;
  • the have the right to an attorney for this hearing;
  • the right to remain silent;
  • that you can apply for indigent counsel;
  • you have a right to a pre-indictment commitment hearing (a.k.a. preliminary hearing), at this hearing you can subpoena witnesses, and you can seek counsel;
  • the preliminary hearing is waived you if you make bond before the hearing date, (you would need to confirm this because some counties will still hold the hearing and expect you to be present subject to being arrested for failure to appear for the court hearing).
  • the date scheduled for the preliminary hearing;
  • if taken into custody on a warrantless arrest, the magistrate will make a determination as to whether probable cause exist for your arrest (if not the charges will be dismissed and you will be released subject to any other pending holds );
  • the right to grand jury indictment in felony cases;
  • ) the right to accusation in misdemeanor cases;
  • the right to uniform traffic citation in traffic case;
  • the right to trial by jury, and in felony cases when the next grand jury will convene;
  • in felony cases regarding OCGA §17-7-70.1 (involving violations of OCGA §§ 16-8-2, 16-8-14, 16-8-18, 16-9-1, 16-9-20, 16-9-31, 16-9-33, 16-9-37, 16-10-52, and 40-5-58) if you expressly waive the preliminary hearing or if your case is bound over after the preliminary hearing, the district attorney has the option of either proceeding under an accusation or an indictment;
  • you or your attorney can waive your right to a preliminary hearing; and
  • consider and make a decision as to whether or not bail will be set and if so set the amount of bail in your case;
  • Inform you if your offense is one that can only be set before a superior court judge.

Once you have been informed of the above, you will be taken back to the jail. You will remain in jail until you either post bond or your case has been resolved. If you do not post bond, you could be in jail for several months.

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