Criminal Defense Lawyer
What Is an Arraignment?
When you are charged with a crime, the arraignment is usually the first time you see the judge. At this type of hearing you hear a reading of the crime you allegedly committed. The right to this hearing is detailed in the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and it serves to keep the authorities from holding you in custody indefinitely without explaining the charges. In most jurisdictions the arraignment must take place within 72 hours or thereabouts. Failure to do so may constitute a violation of your right to a speedy trial.
Arraignments usually take about 45 minutes and often follow a series of steps.
- The accused person appears in front of a judge who advises him or her of the right to legal counsel, either through a privately retained attorney or the public defender’s office.
- Once the accused is represented by a lawyer, the reading of the charges is completed.
- Next is the entering of a plea, usually guilty or not guilty. Sometimes the accused enters a no contest plea, which means that he or she does not admit guilt but chooses not to fight the charges. Most defendants plead not guilty at the arraignment because it happens so early in the case. A not guilty plea gives you and your counsel time to prepare your case and consider all the options.
- The court addresses or reviews the setting of bail and/or release.
- Dates for future court dates, pretrial conferences, and trial are set.
An accused person has the option to waive the arraignment and just enter a plea.
What Are Some Tips for the Arraignment?
An arraignment is a legal proceeding and should be treated as a solemn and respected event. Here are some tips to make things go more smoothly.
- Don’t be late. Arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time.
- Dress appropriately for court. A suit or a dress is a good idea. Avoid casual clothing, exercise wear, and anything with a logo or a slogan across it. Make sure you look neat and tidy with careful grooming and hygiene.
- Check in with the appropriate staff person and follow the instructions of the officers in the courtroom.
- When your case is called, stand and move to the appropriate location in the room right away.
- Answer all questions in a clear voice, and if you need to ask questions, do so respectfully.
Do I Need an Attorney at an Arraignment?
While you may legally go through the arraignment proceeding without an attorney, it is in your best interests to have competent counsel at your side. An experienced criminal defense attorney in San Francisco, CA knows how to establish a defense strategy and advise you at every step of the process. This is the best way to make sure your rights are protected, and it’s probably the most important step you can take in preparing for your arraignment.
Thanks to the Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and what to know about an arraignment.