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Definition of Appearance

An appearance is the formal proceeding where the defendant appears before the court and is first brought before the judge. At the appearance the judge will advise the defendant of the charges, their rights, their bail (if allowed) and the conditions of their release. The judge will also schedule a preliminary hearing. In some cases the defendant may not have to appear in person. The appearance process is governed by state and federal rules of criminal procedure. For minor infractions, such as traffic tickets, a person may not need to appear in court but rather just pay their fine.

In a civil suit the term appearance refers to the plaintiff or the defendant coming to court, although it is generally the defendant. In a civil suit the claimants do not have to appear in court but can authorize an attorney or a duly authorized representative to appear for them.

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