The first appearance a defendant makes in court after their arrest or summons is generally known as an arraignment. In felony cases, this is sometimes known as an initial appearance. The arraignment is where the defendant first officially learns of the exact charges. It is also the opportunity for bond to be set, or lowered from a previously scheduled bond. If a defendant is indigent (without money to pay for an attorney), the court will make arrangements at the arraignment for representation by the public defender’s office or a local private attorney.
In felony cases where only a complaint is filed, the defendant is not required to enter a plea. If the defendant is appearing pursuant to an indictment, a plea is generally taken.
If the charge is a misdemeanor, the defendant will be asked to enter a plea at arraignment. The plea can be either guilty, not guilty, no contest, or not guilty by reason of insanity.