In most Superior Court cases, the first hearing where the defendant is ordered to appear is the Arraignment hearing. At Arraignment, the defendant is formally advised of the charge(s) against him/her and of their rights. The Court usually enters a “Not Guilty” plea on the defendant’s behalf. If the defendant does not have an attorney, or if they cannot afford an attorney, then the Court will appoint an attorney to represent the defendant. A Pre-Trial Conference hearing is then scheduled approximately 4-6 weeks from the date of the Arraignment. If the defendant is released on their own recognizance, commonly referred to as “OR,” the Court will affirm the conditions of release.
However, if the defendant is in custody at the time of the Arraignment, the defense attorney may ask to discuss bond or may request a Release Hearing to change the conditions that the defendant must meet for release. The Deputy County Attorney will request that the Court schedule the Release Hearing at least 5 working days in the future, to allow for proper victim notification. The primary objective of the bond is to ensure that the defendant will appear for future court hearings.
Victims have the right to be notified of any release hearings and to make a statement to the Court regarding reduction or modification of current release conditions. Crime victims will be notified of these hearings typically by mail; however, last-minute hearings do get set by the Court. If there is not enough time to notify the victim by mail regarding a specific hearing, Victim Services will attempt to contact the victim. The Advocate will go over with the victim what their rights are regarding the Release Hearing and ask them if they would like the Advocate to attend the hearing with them. If for some reason, the victim does not wish to attend, or are unable to attend, they may supply a statement to their Advocate. The statement will then be delivered to the Court for all concerned parties to hear the victim’s concerns/wishes. The statement should include any concerns the victim has about their safety and any firsthand knowledge you they have of the defendant not following the orders of the Court?, should the Judge decide to release the defendant from custody.
When setting bail, the Judge can also place any reasonable conditions on the defendant’s release to ensure the victim is not harassed. It is important the victim understands that a “no contact” order may be requested. This “no contact” order may include instructing the defendant to have NO CONTACT with the victim in person, on the phone, by written communication (including e-mail and text) and also through third-party contacts, such as a friend or family member or social media.
If the victim is ever harassed, threatened or bothered by the defendant, his or her friends or family during the case, instruct them to contact the police first and then contact their victim advocate.