Initial appearance refers to the defendant’s appearance before a judge within few hours of his/her arrest. Such an appearance is made to determine whether or not there is a probable cause for his/her arrest. The preliminary examination date is usually decided at the initial appearance.
The following is an example of a federal statute referring to initial appearance:
18 USCS § 3060. Preliminary examination .
(a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, a preliminary examination shall be held within the time set by the judge or magistrate [United States magistrate judge] pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the arrested person has committed it.
(b) The date for the preliminary examination shall be fixed by the judge or magistrate [United States magistrate judge] at the initial appearance of the arrested person. Except as provided by subsection (c) of this section, or unless the arrested person waives the preliminary examination, such examination shall be held within a reasonable time following initial appearance, but in any event not later than--
(1) the fourteenth day following the date of the initial appearance of the arrested person before such officer if the arrested person is held in custody without any provision for release, or is held in custody for failure to meet the conditions of release imposed, or is released from custody only during specified hours of the day; or
(2) the twentieth day following the date of the initial appearance if the arrested person is released from custody under any condition other than a condition described in paragraph (1) of this subsection.