What to Expect at an Arraignment

An arrest is a reason for many to panic. It is a process that you may never believe you will experience until it happens. Getting prepared for something that you did not see coming may seem like a waste of time until it happens.

The court system is often complicated and may confuse even the most educated and prepared person. The steps from arrest to sentencing often begin with an arraignment. Find out more about this critical court step and what you can expect should you find yourself facing it.

The Purpose of an Arraignment

Soon after your arrest, you have the right to appear in front of a judge and hear the prosecution’s charges against you. While you may know what you were arrested for, it does not mean it is going to be the crime charged. District attorneys and state attorneys may change the charges against you based on the evidence the police have gathered in the case. The arraignment is the first court appearance in a criminal case. It may occur in person or via a closed-circuit television from the jail to the courtroom. The purpose of the arraignment is to hear the charges against you and decide what type of plea to enter.

The Types of Pleas

When it comes time for you to speak up and enter a plea on the court record, you may not quite understand the implications of each. Take a look at the possible pleas and what each may mean.

  • Not guilty. If you decide to profess your innocence and fight a criminal charge, you would plead not guilty. This type of entry usually means your legal action will continue forward.
  • Guilty. In some instances, you may decide that fessing up to the charge is the best course of action. Perhaps doing so means your sentence is significantly reduced or more favorable. In a criminal case, a guilty verdict entitles the victim to file a civil lawsuit against you for compensation for the crime.
  • No contest. This plea means you will not fight the charge, but you are not going to admit guilt. The benefit to this is you may get the same plea deal as you would with a guilty verdict without the possibility of being sued by the victim.

Legal Help

You should have a lawyer on your side at every stage of a criminal proceeding. If you qualify, you may get a court-appointed attorney.

A criminal justice lawyer, like a Criminal Defense Attorney in DC, will help you through the arraignment process.  Getting one before the start of your court appearance may benefit your chances of getting a deal or getting off completely.

Thank you to the experts at The Law Firm of Frederick J. Brynn, P.C., for their insight into criminal defense law.