Probable Cause Hearings
What to Expect After Your Client’s Initial Appearance
I recently spoke about the steps to take as an attorney when you receive the news that your client has been arrested. Your client will most likely be brought before the court within 24 hours of their arrest, which is known as their Initial Appearance (IA). The basic function of IA court is to advise the person of the reasons for the arrest, to set the conditions of release, and to set the next court date.
Concerning a misdemeanor charge, once your client gets past the Initial Appearance court, you will need to prepare them and your case for the arraignment and subsequent defense in city or justice court. Concerning felony charges, you will need to prepare for a preliminary hearing or proceeding before the Grand Jury.
Probable Cause Hearing in Court
These are the two Probable Cause Hearings you might encounter:
- Preliminary Hearing – This is normally set in a justice court. A judge will determine if the state has sufficient evidence to continue its case at trial.
- Grand Jury – This is a proceeding in which at least nine people decide whether the state has sufficient evidence to continue its case at trial.
If there is a finding in either proceeding that sufficient evidence exists, the case will be set for an arraignment. The arraignment is the court appearance in which the client can finally enter his plea of not guilty. In most misdemeanor cases, counsel can appear on behalf of the client. However, if charged with a felony, the defendant must be present for all of their court dates unless a special waiver is filed and accepted by the court.
In some cases (normally misdemeanor cases involving domestic violence, or first offense, simple drug cases), the client may be eligible for “diversion.” If so, the prosecutor will allow the defendant to enter a counseling program and no charges will be filed. In this case, no plea agreement is entered. In the case of “deferred prosecution,” the defendant must enter a guilty plea in most cases, and then complete the required counseling. If counseling is successfully completed, the charges will normally be dismissed. However, if not, the terms of punishment set forth in the plea agreement will be imposed and a conviction formally entered.
The important part of either diversion or deferred prosecution is that there is no formal conviction and therefore, no criminal record. There is still an arrest, however, and in most cases, a prosecution history available on public databases.
Howard Snader is a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist. If you or anyone you know has been arrested and is facing a court appearance, please call him at 602.957.3300, email him at [email protected]