In many cases, an arrest is just the beginning of a long and tiring court process that could last several months. This entire process begins with one simple step, the arraignment. Because the arraignment will define your entire legal process it’s imperative that you prepare for this important hearing. But what should you expect from your arraignment? And do you have to face it alone?
What Will Happen at My Arraignment?
While the actual arraignment only lasts a few minutes, you will likely spend several hours in the courthouse while your prosecution is finishing up the documentation. Once before the judge, you will be directed to stand in front of a microphone. Your charges will then be read aloud and a clerk will ask you how you want to plead. There are three ways to respond:
- Not guilty – You are denying all charges or you wish to request a trial
- Guilty – You admit that you committed the crime
- Nolo contendere (No contest) – A true middle ground where you don’t plead guilty, but you are willing to be sentenced if found guilty
What Will Happen After My Plea?
Once you’ve submitted your plea, the judge will determine the next steps for your case. The case could go straight to trial or pre-trial, or, if you plead guilty or nolo contendere, the case could move on to further hearings. Afterward, if you’ve been released either on bail or your own recognizance, you have time to prepare before your next court appearance which will be several weeks away. If you remain in custody after the arraignment, your next court appearance will be sooner.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you committed an offense in which you may go to jail, you are required to have a lawyer present. This lawyer could either be appointed by the judge called a “duty lawyer” or hired by the defendant. If you have not committed a jailable offense and are planning to enter a plea of “not guilty,” you may not need an attorney present. When determining whether or not to hire an attorney for your arraignment, consider your punishment if convicted. If you’re concerned about hidden punishments for minor offenses, such as loss of license, insurance raises or deportation, it would be wise to have an attorney onsite.
Remember, the United States Constitution grants you the right to an attorney, even if you can’t afford one. If faced with an upcoming arraignment, find a criminal attorney in Washington, DC to stand by your side for the case. They will be able to educate you on the legal process and help you devise a defensive strategy. Having an attorney on your case could reduce the stress of the arraignment process and lessen the potential consequences of your offense.
Thanks to The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C. for their insight into criminal law and your constitutional rights.