The arraignment is one step in the criminal court process after an arrest. Even though you go before a judge, an arraignment is not a trial. There are no witnesses or evidence presented to the court. However, the arraignment is an important step in the process after an arrest that you should not overlook.
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The Arrest, Processing, & Detainment Process
Before discussing the arraignment, it can be useful to discuss an overview of the arrest process.
Being Arrested for an Alleged Crime
A law enforcement officer can arrest you if he has probable cause. Probable cause is a reasonable belief that some is committing a crime or has committed a crime. For example, a police officer sees you purchase what appears to be an illegal substance or your vehicle matches the description of a vehicle involved in a hit and run accident.
In some cases, a judge may issue an arrest warrant for a theft crime or a bench warrant for failing to appear in court. Police officers might come to your home or work to execute the arrest warrant.
The officers inform you of your Miranda rights, including the right to have legal counsel and the right to remain silent. They place you in custody and transport you to the police station.
At the police station, police officers may interrogate you. Remember, you have the right to remain silent. It is in your best interest to exercise that right by refusing to answer any questions or provide a statement without a criminal defense attorney present.
The Booking Process
During booking, an officer collects personal information, such as your full name, date of birth, gender, eye color, hair color, etc. The officers may search your body to ensure you do not have any weapons or contraband. They collect your belongings for inventory and storage. In most cases, the officers take your clothing and give you clothing to wear while you are in jail.
An officer takes your mug shot and fingerprints. The officer may ask you for a DNA, blood, urine, or saliva sample. Unless the officer has a court order requiring you to submit a sample, do not agree to provide samples without speaking with a criminal defense lawyer.
Being Placed in Detention
After you are booked and processed, the officers take you to lock up or detention. Depending on the jurisdiction and other factors, you could be held at the jail or sent to a detention facility. You remain in detention until your first court hearing.
What Happens at an Arraignment?
As stated above, an arraignment is a court hearing before a judge. It is not a trial, and neither side presents any evidence or witnesses. The purpose of the arraignment is for you to understand the criminal charges against you and enter a plea.
Explanation of Charges and Rights
The judge reads the charges against the defendant. He explains that the defendant has the right to remain silent and has the right to consult with an attorney. If you have not hired an attorney, you may request a continuance to hire a lawyer. You may also request that the court appoint an attorney if you cannot afford to hire one.
The judge informs you that you have the right to a preliminary hearing if you were arrested on a felony charge and there is no indictment against you. The judge also explains that you have the right to a bail hearing and a jury trial.
Entering a Plea
The judge asks you to enter a plea regarding the criminal charges.
There are three possible pleas that you might enter:
- Not Guilty means that you are stating that the allegations against you are false and you did not commit the alleged crime.
- Guilty means that you admit you committed the crime as charged
- No Contest means that you do not admit you committed the crime, but you are not contesting the allegations against you
Most individuals plead not guilty during their arraignment. If you plead not guilty, your criminal case proceeds through discovery and other hearings before your case goes to trial. Your lawyer may engage in negotiations with the prosecutor to resolve the case before it goes to trial.
If you plead guilty or not guilty, the judge may issue a sentence immediately, or he may set a date for a sentencing hearing. The prosecution does not need to submit evidence to prove the legal elements of the crime when you plead guilty or no contest.
The difference in entering a no contest plea is that you accept the punishment for the alleged crime, but you are not admitting that you committed the crime. One advantage of pleading no contest is that the plea cannot be used against you in other cases.
Do I Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for an Arraignment Hearing?
You are not required by law to hire an attorney or request an attorney be appointed to represent you at an arraignment hearing. However, that does not mean that you do not need a criminal defense lawyer to handle your case.
Representing yourself against criminal charges can be disastrous. Even though you might have been through the criminal justice process before on other charges, you can still benefit from hiring a lawyer.
A lawyer may recognize that your civil rights were violated through an illegal search and seizure. The attorney can file a motion to suppress to have the evidence collected illegally thrown out. Without that evidence, the court may dismiss the charges against you.
If you intend to plead guilty or no contest, having an attorney negotiating a plea agreement is in your best interest. Your lawyer points out the weaknesses in the state’s case to argue for a lesser sentence or reduction of charges. An experienced trial attorney understands how to develop arguments that strengthen your request for leniency.
Remember, the police officers and the prosecutor already believe you are guilty. The prosecutor is only interested in obtaining a guilty verdict. The judge is neutral.
You need someone in the courtroom who can fight for your best interests. A criminal defense attorney is on your side. His goal is to get you out of jail as soon as possible and provide you with the best defense based on your case’s facts.
Contact Our Dayton Criminal Defense Attorneys for a Free Consultation
If you are under investigation or you have been arrested, contact our Dayton criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation. We want to help you obtain the best possible outcome for your case. Our legal team will not stop digging and investigating until we get to the truth of what happened that caused the police to arrest you.