Before you hire a criminal defense lawyer, you might be wondering what an arraignment is, and if you must attend one. There is a lot to understand when you’re facing criminal charges. When you work with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer Fairfax VA residents need, you can get your questions and concerns addressed in advance of court proceedings. This is important as it will make it possible for you to make informed decisions that may have lifelong implications.
When a judge formally advises a criminal defendant of the charges against them, this occurs in a courtroom and is known as an arraignment. During this time, the defendant has the opportunity to enter a plea in response. Your criminal defense lawyer will be with you during the arraignment. You will know ahead of time how you will plea to the charges. Your lawyer can also give you a sense of your chances of being released pending a trial for your charges.
When is the arraignment held?
The time it happens will vary, usually due to how heavy or light the caseload of the judge and court system. However, it must happen within a reasonable amount of time after you have been arrested. This is because the sixth amendment of the US constitution guarantees your right to a speedy trial. In fact, if you are not arraigned until many months or more after your arrest, your criminal defense lawyer can petition the court and request a judge to dismiss your case.
The Arraignment Process
The process can vary from case to case, and when you meet with your criminal defense lawyer, you can learn what to expect based on your unique circumstances. The judge may advise you of your rights such as a right to have a trial, the right to have a lawyer, and the right to not incriminate yourself. You also have the right to have your criminal defense lawyer at your side during the arraignment.
After the judge advises you of your charges, you will be asked how you plead to those charges. You have three choices:
- Not guilty. This plea means you did not do the crime and the prosecutor must prove their case against you.
- Guilty. If you plead guilty to a minor crime such as disorderly conduct, you may be sentenced at the arraignment hear. Otherwise, the judge will likely rule that a separate hearing will have to take place during which time you’ll be sentenced.
- No contest. You are acknowledging that the prosecutor has sufficient evidence to prove you are guilty but you are not admitting your guilt. The rest of the proceeding will be similar to you having entered a guilty plea.
Consult a Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you were arrested, contact our office immediately. One of our experienced criminal defense lawyers can provide you more information about the arraignment process. An attorney can meet with you and walk you through all of the legal proceedings.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Dave Albo Attorney for their insights into criminal defense and arraignments.