Tulsa Attorney BlogWhat Is an Initial Appearance in Federal Court?

Arraignment Is Your Opportunity to Plead Guilty or Not Guilty

Video Transcribed: What is the initial appearance in federal court? My name’s Ted Hasse. I’m a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Oklahoma at Wirth Law Office. I want to talk briefly today about the first steps in a federal criminal matter. Once you become a defendant, however, you’ve gotten here, a number of ways you get here.

Right now, we’re seeing an awful lot of people that are being charged with alleged crimes that would have been charged by the state. Now, they’re going federal because either the defendant or the alleged victim is Native American.

There are a number of sort of run-of-the-mill everyday federal offenses we are continuing to see that would have been federal anyway, fraud, financial crimes, guns, drugs, conspiracies, stuff like this.

However you’ve ended up in this situation where you’ve been indicted, your first step is the initial appearance. And that’s the first time you’re appearing before, typically, the magistrate judge will hear your case. It’s not the main judge who will be handling your entire case.

Attorney Ted HasseYou’ll appear before a magistrate. It’s your opportunity to be seen and get connected with an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, it’s usually at that step where the public defender, federal public defenders are stepping in, or you’re being assigned a court-appointed that’s attached to the criminal justice act panel if the public defenders are not able to handle them.

And increasingly that’s happening because just everybody is busy under, it’s being called a tsunami of cases now in the Northern District. These cases are being tried in Tulsa in the Eastern district, handled in Muskogee.

We’re seeing lots and lots of cases, but initial appearance, it’s your first chance to appear before a judge and hear your charges. Frequently, in that first step initial appearance, we have your arraignment. Arraignment is your opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. In terms of the way we handle it, you always plead not guilty at that point.

Even if the evidence is strong against you later on down the road, your attorney can confer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office of federal prosecutors to figure out possibly a plea agreement, in most cases. And with a plea agreement, a very small percentage ends up going to trial.

I will talk in another video a little bit about, you know, kind of the next step, the detention hearing. Sometimes that can happen very early on, but your first steps into this whole process and your first time before a judge will be in front of a magistrate judge, which is kind of not… I don’t want to call it junior varsity judge, but they’re hired.

They’re on contract. They’re not like the judges that are assigned to each case that are appointed for life. Certainly, Northern district, very competent magistrate judges, these are fantastic judges generally that carefully look at the issues and determine how to proceed.

But the first step, you’re facing a federal criminal charge. You’re in the big leagues. It’s definitely time to get an attorney and best to get retained counsel if it’s possible for you to do that. Please feel free to give us a call if you need a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, or If you any have questions, call (918) 932-2800.

"Make law easy!"