If you have been charged with a crime, you will either be summoned to court by a ticket/citation or sent notice by the court to appear on a certain time and date for your initial hearing. Maybe you have been arrested and held in jail until the initial charges in your case have been filed.
At an initial hearing in a criminal case, the court clerk will advise you of your rights. They are the same rights you hear on television, otherwise known as your “Miranda” rights. The court will say them aloud in open court for you to hear. If you have an attorney, he/she will frequently tell you your rights and save the court’s time as well as your time.
The judge will read the charges filed against you. The declaration informs both you and the court of what you are accused. It will give a jurisdictional basis, or reason why it is in the county, also the particulars of the charge: the who, what, where, and how. The judge will usually enter a plea of not guilty, or he/she may ask you how you plead. I always advise my clients to plead not guilty. Why? Until you know the evidence against you, you can’t know the full facts of the situation. Pleading not guilty at an initial hearing allows you to consult with an attorney on how best to handle your case and what impact the case can have on your life.
It is very important to admit nothing at the hearing. Do not discuss the case or make any statements that could incriminate you or make you appear guilty as the hearing will be recorded. If the prosecutor is present, he/she will be taking notes in order to use anything you say against you.
After the charges are read, the court will usually set bond. Bond is set for two purposes. One to ensure you show up for court, and the second for public safety. Most prosecutors only care about public safety, so they typically ask for a high bond. Remember, the prosecutor thinks you are guilty from the very beginning; otherwise, they would not have filed the charges. If you are in front of a judge without an attorney at your initial hearing, something I advise against, you will have to state why you should be released on your own recognizance (OR) or be granted a lower bond.
Your argument would focus on:
- your ties to the community, how long you have lived in it, what relatives are in the community;
- your family obligations (you provide the income to your family, you care for an elderly parent, or you care for children);
- your criminal history or lack of criminal history;
- Whether you have ever missed a court date before;
- health or medical reasons;
- any other reason why you should be released.
The judge will take your reasons and the prosecutor’s reasons to make a determination of bond. If he requires a bond, or one higher than currently posted, you will be locked up until the bond is paid or your case is resolved. If the judge accepts the bond in your case or ORs you, then you can leave the court. Either way the judge will set court dates in order to move your case to a resolution.
The judge can do other actions at this hearing as we. He can suspend your license, restrict your movements, or put in place a “No Contact Order”. The full range of what a judge can do is beyond the scope of this article.
I have attached below the range of penalties for each class of crimes in the State of Indiana.
The above is not to be construed as giving legal advice or forming an attorney client relationship. Each situation is different and you should talk to an attorney about your case.
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