First Appearance

The felony criminal process typically begins with an arrest.  The accused is taken into custody and placed in detention or jail.  In the Albuquerque area, prisoners are housed at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center.  Prisoners can be located through the detention center website.

A criminal complaint is then filed in the metropolitan or magistrate court.  The criminal complaint sets out the charges against the defendant.  The case is then set for First Appearance.

What is the purpose of a First Appearance?

The First Appearance has a number of purposes.  First, and foremost, the Court will determine whether or not the criminal complaint states sufficient probable cause for arrest.  It is rare, but on occasion the court will dismiss the case at this stage for lack of probable cause.

If the Court finds that there is probable cause, the Court will then consider bail.  The Court has fairly wide discretion in setting bail though bail must not be excessive under the 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Typically, except in unusually serious cases, bail is set cash or surety.  A surety bond allows the defendant to post bond through a bonding agent.

Conditions of Release

The Court will then establish Conditions of Release.  If bail is set, the defendant may post bail if he or she is able to meet the terms of bail.  The defendant is subject to the Conditions of Release throughout the process.

Violations of the conditions are taken very seriously and can result in the defendant being locked up for the entirety of the process which in felony cases can be well over a year due to New Mexico’s reading of the 6th Amendment speedy trial guarantees in felony cases.

Early Deadlines and Defense Opportunities

There are a number of early deadlines in case of felony charges. In fact, there may be opportunities even before charges are filed.  These might include pre-indictment opportunities that avoid felony charges completely.

Once a target letter is issued, many deadlines will begin to run.  Missing these deadlines can jeopardize your defense.  Likewise, understanding the deadlines and various opportunities for defense at each stage can greatly improve the outcome in your case.

Contacting an attorney without delay is important due to these various deadlines and opportunities early.  An experienced New Mexico criminal defense attorney  is essential.


(505) 242-5958