What Happens During a Court Appearance?

During an appearance in court, the charges, penalties and rights of a defendant are explained and a defendant is allowed to get an attorney, according to American Bar Association. The process is unique depending on whether the case is a misdemeanor or a felony.

In a felony case, the first court appearance and arraignment take place in different court events, states the American Bar Association. A defendant may not enter a plea during a first appearance, but must do it during arraignment. The first appearance usually occurs in a magistrate's court, and a defendant must determine his desire to have a preliminary hearing, which is set within the time limit defined by the law. During a preliminary hearing, a prosecuting attorney presents evidence to the court. If the evidence is sufficient to build a case, the defendant is bound over, meaning the case moves to the district court for further action.

If it is a misdemeanor case, the first appearance and arraignment are combined, says the American Bar Association. The magistrate moves to take the defendant's plea and moves the case for trial if it becomes necessary. The charge is read and the penalty is explained. If a defendant pleads for an attorney but cannot afford one, whether the case is a felony or a misdemeanor, the court determines if he should be provided with one based on his financial status.