What Should I Expect When I Get to Court?

That depends on what kind of hearing you have. If you’re scheduled for an arraignment, then you can expect to have the court read to you what your charges are and for your attorney to be ready to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Typically, the plea at arraignment will be not guilty and your lawyer would schedule another hearing, called a status hearing, to conduct negotiations with your prosecutor, analyze the evidence, and discuss possible defenses with you.

On a felony case, you’re probably being brought before a judge straight from being arrested. If you’re being charged with a crime of violence, such as robbery, the judge is required to hold you in jail until your preliminary hearing unless your lawyer can successfully argue that there was no probable cause to arrest you in the first place. Probable cause is a very low standard, requiring only a minimal amount of evidence to show that you committed a crime. Because DC does not have a bail system, the judge must hold you if she finds probable cause in your case. If you are being charged with a non-violent felony, your judge is not required to hold you in jail, but can do so at her discretion in the event you have other pending charges or are on probation or parole in another case. In those situations, your lawyer can argue for your release based on factors that suggest you are neither a flight risk nor a threat to the community.