After the police charge you with a crime, you will need to make an initial appearance in court. Before you enter the courtroom, be sure to know your rights and prepare the necessary materials.
What is the purpose of an initial appearance?
After an arrest, the police must charge you with a crime or let you go. As a suspect charged with a Class A misdemeanor or felony, they must take you before a judge without “unnecessary delay.” In Iowa, this is typically less than 30 days.
This marks the formal beginning of your case. It might last for only a few minutes, but it is extremely important. You should not be late. You may or may not be in police custody before your initial appearance.
At this event, the judge informs you of the charges and your rights. If you were arrested on probable cause instead of a warrant, the judge will review this. If they determine the probable cause was unjust, they might dismiss your case. Or, they will allow the case to proceed through the legal system.
What do you need to bring?
You have the right to be represented by an attorney at your initial appearance. Your private attorney can attend, or the public defender assigned to you if you cannot afford a private attorney. After you are called from the waiting room, your attorney will escort you into the courtroom.
If you have an attorney, your presence will be your most important role.
Before this court appearance, your attorney and the prosecuting team could come to a pre-trial agreement. Your initial appearance might be one of your last court appearances. If you have come to a pre-trial agreement, your attorney should bring these documents.
Overall, the initial court appearance can be uneventful. It might be one of your only court appearances, or only the formal beginning of your case.