Your Initial Appearance Is Pretty Standard — They Can Go Pretty Quick.
Video Transcribed: Hello, my name is Ryan Cannonie. I’m a Tahlequah criminal defense attorney for the Wirth Law Office in Tahlequah. I started a little segment of videos, and it’s just kind of breaking down the criminal justice process.
But if you are arrested or are not arrested, either way, and you get charges filed, what’s your next step? Well, here in Cherokee County, the process, and in most of Oklahoma works the same way. Every place in Eastern Oklahoma I’ve been there’s a slight variation on it, but for the most part it’s all pretty uniform.
Your next step is going to be your initial appearance, initial arraignment. Some courts call it different things. All that is is kind of a fancy way of saying you show up and you get your charges.
Now, some courts do this every day. I believe in Muskogee I think they do it every day. Some courts do it once a week. Here in Tahlequah, the court system does it every Tuesday afternoon. That’s the schedule right now anyway. You have kind of a huge docket of people, everyone that’s had charges filed on them.
So, after you’re arrested or after you’ve been processed on a warrant, you’re going to be given a court date. That court date is the date for you to be there to receive the charges against you and to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, no contest.
Now, if you enter a plea of guilty or no contest, then judge is going to either immediately sentence you, or ask for a sentencing report if it’s a serious felony, or maybe put off sentencing and have you complete something. Sometimes they’ll do that.
That’s not exactly the end if your sentencing’s put out, but it’s pretty well the end of your case. You pled guilty. If it’s a traffic citation, you might be paying like fines and cost or whatnot, but you’ve skipped ahead of the whole rest of the process.
If you have an attorney, most attorneys are going to always recommend you plead not guilty at that time, because that gives an attorney on your behalf time to go talk to the DA’s office, work out some type of plea agreement, maybe even point out flaws in their case to try to get your case dismissed. You’re not going to get a dismissal in every case, but sometimes it happens.
So, if you are in a situation where you’ve been given a court date, come talk to an attorney. It’s always good to have an attorney on your side when you go in there so you know what your options are. They can counsel you as to what you should or shouldn’t do.
I was a prosecutor for over seven years, and one thing that always just kind of surprised me on that was that people would come in, and they wouldn’t have an attorney, and they would just get what people sometimes call diarrhea of the mouth.
They would just start talking and want to argue their case right then. They would just start saying these things and, of course, as a prosecutor, I’m sitting there writing them all down as fast as I can because they’re incriminating themselves.
They’re making admissions. They’re saying, “Well, this is what happened. She was there,” so they’re giving me more witnesses than the police report did. These are all things that your attorney is going to tell you, “Be quiet. Don’t say anything,” that people just don’t think about unless they are familiar with the court process.
When you come in on an arraignment, like I said, you’ll plead guilty, not guilty, no contest.
The other thing about your initial appearance is in Oklahoma, if it’s a felony, you’re going to have to show up, unless due to COVID there’s some court rule that’s making an exception, because you never know these days what’s going to happen due to COVID.
But by statute, if it’s a misdemeanor, most of the time you don’t have to show up at all. Unless the judge is just demanding you be there, your attorney can show up for you by statute and say, “Hey, I’m representing John Smith.
I’m standing in for him today, and I plead not guilty. Let’s get a new day.” That way you don’t have to take off work. You can have your attorney in your place up there for it.
Your initial appearance is pretty standard. They go pretty quick. Some courts, they want to read the whole charge to you, everything you’re being charged with. The actual procedure that most attorneys do is waive a reading, say, “We can read this ourselves.” It just kind of depends on the court system you’re in and if you have an attorney or not.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re in a criminal case and you’re kind of worried about what’s going on, or you don’t really know, or you’ve got an arraignment date and you maybe have work or something else going on, then give us a call. We can help. Get us retained.
We can enter your case and start working to hopefully get you a dismissal, but if not, at least work down a better plea than you might be able to get on your own. Please contact a Cherokee County criminal defense lawyer to discuss your available legal options.