What Happens at Your Initial Appearance?

After you are arrested, the state cannot keep you indefinitely in jail. Instead, you must be taken before a judge or magistrate within 48 hours (or 72 hours if there was an arrest warrant). Because many important issues are decided at your initial appearance, you’ll need a skilled Georgia criminal defense attorney by your side.

Hear the Charges Against You

At your initial appearance, the judge will inform you of the charges against you. This is actually very important, because you might not know exactly what you are being charged with, and you can’t begin to build a defense until you figure out why you’re being prosecuted. If you don’t yet have a lawyer, keep detailed notes to show them later.

You don’t enter a plea at the initial appearance; instead, you wait for your arraignment, which might take place in a few weeks. In Georgia, you can typically enter one of two pleas—guilty or not guilty—and you’ll have some time to think about which one to enter.

Ask for a Commitment Hearing

If you’ve been charged with a felony, then you can ask for a preliminary hearing, also called a commitment hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to test whether the state has enough evidence against you to bring charges. A prosecutor doesn’t have to prove you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” at the commitment hearing, but they must show sufficient probable cause to bring a trial.

If you request a commitment hearing, it might be held the same day as your initial appearance, or you might need to set a date for the future. At the hearing, your attorney can present evidence to the court, and if the judge doesn’t find sufficient probable cause you will be released. People charged with misdemeanors do not have a right to commitment hearings.


Criminal trials don’t take place immediately in Georgia, so criminal defendants could languish in jail for months. For this reason, Georgia allows most defendants to be released so long as they post “bail,” which is a sum of money you pay into the court that ensures you will show up to future court hearings.

Not everyone gets bail. For example, the judge might think that a defendant is too dangerous to be let out of jail, in which case bail will be denied. However, if your defense attorney puts on a compelling case they can get bail if they show you aren’t a flight risk and have deep ties to the area.

Typically, you can pay your bail by posting a bond, which is usually only 10% of the bail amount. For example, if your bail is $100,000, you can usually post a bond for $10,000. In some situations, however, you’ll need to post the full amount of the bail using property or cash. If the defendant skips out of town, then the court keeps the entire bail amount.

How an Attorney Helps

A skilled Georgia criminal defense attorney will guide you through every step of the arraignment process. At Epps Law Group, we help criminal defendants do the following:

·         Analyze whether requesting a commitment hearing is a good idea, depending on the facts known.

·         Persuade the judge that you aren’t a flight risk and warrant a release on bail.

·         Convince a judge to set the bail amount as low as possible.

·         Fully consider whether a defendant should plead guilty or not guilty at your upcoming arraignment, which will depend on the charges filed against you and your criminal history.

Call a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney

As soon as you or a loved one is arrested, reach out to a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Kyle Epps, the founder of Epps Law Group, is a former prosecutor who understands initial appearances inside and out. Call us today at 678-456-4627 or visit us online to complete a contact form. Consultations are free.