When you are charged with a crime you may receive a citation, or you may be arrested. In either case, if requested, the prosecution must file a formal “Information” against you. If you are arrested, you may be released on bail. In either case, you will need to contact the court to schedule your court date.
Your first appearance on a charge is called an arraignment. When you arrive at court you will be required to watch an instructional video, and also to complete a form advising you of your rights.
You may have an attorney with you, but it is not required. If you meet certain income guidelines, the court may appoint an attorney for you, but only if jail time is a real possibility.
When you appear before the judge, you will be asked to “plead” to the charge(s) against you. You may plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “no-contest”. A no-contest plea has the same procedural effect as a guilty plea, but rather than admitting guilt, the defendant admits that the prosecutor would likely prevail at trial. It is up to the judge whether or not he will accept a no-contest plea.
If you plead guilty or no-contest, you will next need to be sentenced. See the below heading for further information regarding sentencing.