If you are arrested, upon your arrest you will be brought before a District Magistrate. The District Magistrate’s job at this stage is to determine whether or not to set bail, as well as how much bail will be set. Setting bail also involves figuring out which other conditions apply to your crime. For example, in order to protect society and the victims of your crime, a District Magistrate might order no contact with the victim while you are free on bail.
If you are to report to court via citation, you will be party to a review of bail at the Preliminary Hearing, which will be discussed in lesson III.
During this phase (well, during all phases, but especially this one), it is important to watch your words. You might have no attorney present and be asked to speak.
My advice is the following:
1. Do not state your defense to the District Magistrate. They do not care, nor are they permitted to set you free even if they believe you.
2. Answer the District Magistrate’s questions as concisely as possible. This means that you should only answer the question which you have been asked, and with as few words as possible. Do not tell your story. Do not go back in time to incidents before the act in question. Do not become upset and plead your defense.
Try to remember that this system is designed to determine who is a criminal and to punish that person by putting him/her in a cage for a long time. These people, while they may be kind to you and encourage you to talk, are not your friends.
3. You can improve your chances of receiving more freedom if you can provide some details as to why you should be free during the wait until your case comes up in the Court Schedule. You’ll also want to mention reasons that will convey to the Judge that you are not a flight risk; that you’ll stay in the area until your case is heard. You can tell the District Magistrate the following:
~ Whether you have a job, how long you’ve held that job, and why it’s important that you be there every day.
~ How long you have lived in the area, whether you have a house and pay rent or mortgage, or whether you’re taking classes at one of the surrounding colleges
~ If you have children to care for, and whether you are a single parent, the head of your household, and/or the sole breadwinner of your household.
4. My fourth piece of advice is this: If you are having this hearing after 11:00 p.m., remember that the District Magistrate might be tired and crabby, so be patient. Even though this experience is scary, and no one wants to go jail, you will want to show the District Magistrate that you are a law-abiding citizen who will attend all of the hearings. This is not an appropriate time to air your feelings of frustration or anger.
This concludes Lesson II of MCP’s Criminal Procedure 101. See you next time, happy citizens, and remember to call us with your legal questions at (814) 758-5659. You can find this blog post and more at https://lawfirmfranklin.com/the-mcp-blog/.