What You Should Expect at Your Arraignment

Legal Tips and Resources

An arraignment is the court proceeding at which the judge will formally advise you of the charges against you. You may also be required to enter your plea of not guilty or guilty. This can be a frightening and confusing experience, especially if you’ve never been charged with a crime before, so here’s what to expect when you attend your arraignment.

The general process

The type of crime you were charged with and where it happened will determine in which court your arraignment will occur. This usually takes place within a day or two of your initial arrest.

Generally, arraignments unfold in the steps below.

• The judge will read the charges against you.

• The judge will ask if you have an attorney, are going to hire one, or if you want to be represented by one appointed by the court.

• The judge asks how you want to plead, guilty or not guilty. Rarely you may also plead nolo contrendre or no contest. No contest means you are not admitting or denying guilt, but you are still treated as if you made a guilty plea and will be sentenced accordingly.

• The judge either sets your bail—an amount of money you would have to pay to remain out of jail as your case continues—or releases you on your own recognizance, which means you remain out of jail without having to pay bail until your next court appearance.

• The judge sets dates for additional proceedings, such as a preliminary hearing and the trial.

Most arraignments will only last just a few minutes. If you fail to appear, you could be hit with an arrest warrant from the court, which could mean jail time and fines. In some cases, you may not have to attend, however. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, for example, your criminal lawyer in Denver, CO may be able to represent you there instead. Make sure you know where your arraignment is being held and whether you have to attend so you know exactly what you are doing and don’t end up in trouble with the court.

Plea bargains

Many criminal cases don’t go to trial after the arraignment. Instead, your defense attorney and the prosecutor may reach an agreement known as a plea bargain, in which you plead guilty to one or more charges in exchange for something. You may, for example, get some charges dismissed or their severity reduced in a plea bargain. A plea bargain can be made at any point in the criminal proceedings.

While a plea bargain may seem appealing on paper, it’s not always the best option for everyone. Speak to a criminal lawyer in Denver, CO before accepting any type of plea bargain.

Preparing for your arraignment

If you have been charged with a crime or are being investigated for one, it’s recommended that you speak to a criminal attorney as soon as you can – before your arraignment if possible. This will give your attorney time to examine your case, gather any evidence, start negotiations with the prosecutor, and make a fully-informed recommendation about your plea before you enter one.

If you are facing criminal charges, it’s important you move quickly to defend yourself. Contact a lawyer about your case today.

Thanks to Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into criminal defense and arraignments.