What is an Arraignment?
Many people who are new to the criminal or juvenile court systems ask the question: “What is an arraignment?” To understand what to expect at an arraignment, you need to understand the legal purpose as well as what practically happens. An arraignment is typically the first court date someone receives, either on a ticket or after bonding out of jail. In some counties, they do not give you this court date immediately. In these counties, they mail you the court date.
Legal Purpose of an Arraignment
The legal purpose of an arraignment is basically two parts:
- To formally notify you of your charges; and
- To give you the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.
The charges can be the same charges you were originally given, or they could be different charges the prosecutor thought more appropriate. This means that they could actually make the charges more serious.
A very important thing that most people don’t realize is that the law requires that many types of motions must be filed within 10 days of arraignment. If the required motions aren’t filed within 10 days of arraignment, you could miss the opportunity to explore all the options to challenge the case against you.
Practical Purpose of Arraignment
Practically speaking, the arraignment is often a time where you enter a not guilty plea in a case. If you plead guilty at this stage, your case would likely be resolved without a review of the evidence against you. It is also unlikely that there would have be an opportunity for meaningful negotiations with the prosecutor. A “not guilty” plea can always be changed to a “guilty” plea at a later date if that is the best resolution for your case.
This isn’t a time where you present evidence or argue your case to a judge. If you go to court without an attorney, the prosecutor often gives you a plea offer. If you choose not to accept that plea offer they will generally tell you that you will come back for a trial on a different day.
So little happens at these arraignments that in some jurisdictions your lawyer can and should appear without you. Alternatively, a lawyer can waive arraignment so that you are excused. Waiving arraignment simply means filing a document prior to the court date acknowledging that you are aware of the charges against you and that you are entering an initial plea of “not guilty.”
What does this mean for you?
At the Teen & Young Adult Defense Firm, we believe that everyone should have every available opportunity for their future. If you go to court without an attorney, you are at risk. This risk stems from not knowing all of your legal rights and options. You are at risk of:
- missing a required deadline for motions to challenge your case;
- waiving other rights that you have in your case;
- not understanding all of the options presented to you; and
- feeling like you have to take one of the options the prosecutor gives you.
The biggest risk of all is what these risks can mean for you or your loved one. The risk that one wrong decision in court could bring a lifetime of society’s judgement through a criminal record that could have potentially been avoided. A criminal record has the potential of impacting a person’s:
- ability to make money through lost job and college opportunities;
- freedom based upon potential jail or prison time; and
- belief in themselves after being accused of and possibly convicted of a crime.
No one should have to worry about a single mistake ruining their future. It is worse if the mistake that leads to a person being haunted by a criminal record is really a process mistake due to a lack of training and experience.
Don’t take these risks. Have a criminal and juvenile defense attorney team that can help you through this process. Contact us to see if we can help. We want to take you or your loved one from someone who is facing a criminal record that can stop you from achieving your potential to someone who has every opportunity for their future.