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A guide to ease the reentry from incarceration to the community First Appearance You will appear before a judge within 24 hours of your arrest if you cannot post the bail in the bail schedule amount set by the chief judge of the 18th Judicial Circuit.
The judge will ask if you want to have a lawyer present and whether you need a court-appointed lawyer because you are unable to afford to hire one. The judge will advise you of your charge or charges.
The judge will decide if the police had a legally sufficient reason to arrest you, known as probable cause. You do not have a right to bail if you are charged with a crime that carries a penalty of either life imprisonment or death, which may include murder, sexual battery, kidnapping, burglary and robbery.
To lower the amount of bail or to have the court set bail, the judge must be convinced you will be in court when notified. You may be asked several questions such as whether you have a family living in the area, whether you are working, whether you have been bailed out before and appeared in court on time, where you live and your criminal record.
If the court finds you are not charged with a serious crime, that you will appear when required in court or that you have a responsible person in the community who will guarantee your appearance in court, the judge may decide to release you without bail. A motion may be filed by your assistant public defender for reduction of bail if the bail in your case seems high in view of the charge, the evidence against you, or your personal background.
Even though this interviewer may not be an attorney, the information you give is confidential and will be given to your lawyer. You will be asked a number of questions. It is important to cooperate fully and answer all questions truthfully.
Please do not wait until the day before your trial or your court date. We will meet with you when necessary. If telephones are available at the jail, a call will often solve your problem.
Do not discuss the facts of your case on the telephone or in the hearing of other people. You should request a jail visit when it is important that you and your lawyer meet in person. Only the people in charge of the jail can decide if your friends and relatives can visit you.
Questions about food, clothing and medicine should also be directed to the people in charge of the jail. If formal charges are not filed within 33 days, the Public Defender will schedule you to be brought before the judge at the jail to decide whether the state should be given an additional 7 days in which to file the formal charging document called the information.
The trial date will be set at that time. Often the public defender will waive the formal reading of the charges at arraignment. Do not discuss your case with anyone else including your family, friends, cellmates, news reporters, probation officer or police officers unless your lawyer says you can, since all of these people can be made to testify against you.
Your lawyer and investigator must know the truth, even if you are guilty, think you are guilty, or the truth makes you look guilty. If the truth is known, your lawyers will not be caught off guard and will be able to better represent you. You can help in the investigation of your case by giving the names and addresses of witnesses.
If you are out of jail, you can help your case by finding witnesses and notifying your lawyer by sending a letter, calling or coming to the office with the names and addresses. If you are in jail, try to have your family and friends find witnesses.
Witnesses may be anyone who can testify to any circumstances which may show you are not guilty or which may tend to show that the crime was not as serious as the prosecutor claims. Your investigator may interview the witnesses against you and try to locate defense witnesses.
Accurate names and addresses are helpful. You should not, however, contact witnesses for the prosecution or send other people to talk to them for you. If you do, you may be charged with the crime of witness tampering.
Once appointed, we will interview you and get a copy of the charges against you. This all takes time. Each case is different.
Complicated cases naturally take longer than other cases. Remember, an extra month or two in jail may save you from years in prison.
Your lawyer must be thoroughly prepared before he can go into court for you. If you do not understand why your case is taking so long to prepare, talk to your lawyer and he will explain it to you.How A Case Proceeds.
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After your first appearance, an arraignment will be scheduled in your case. At arraignment, your charges may be read, a lawyer from the Public Defender’s Office enters your plea and, if the plea is “not guilty,” requests either a trial by jury or judge.
The trial date will be set at that time.