If you have been arrested or summoned to court because you have allegedly committed a crime, the first proceeding you will go through is the arraignment. Note that this is not your criminal trial – that comes later. The arraignment is a proceeding in which you will learn about the charges against you and the potential consequences. You may also be asked to enter a plea.
In this blog, we will elaborate on what happens during an arraignment.
Reading of the Charges
During your arraignment, the judge will let you know what you have been accused of. They will also ask if you understand the charges against you. It is crucial that you understand what you are on trial for, as it can help when you work with an attorney to build an aggressive defense for your case.
If you do not fully grasp the allegations, ensure that you let the judge know. They will give an explanation of the statute you allegedly violated.
Explaining the Consequences of a Guilty Plea
After the charges have been read and before the judge asks you to enter a plea, they will discuss what can happen if you admit guilt.
Depending on your circumstances, a guilty plea can have several consequences, including, but not limited to:
- Deportation: If you are not a U.S. citizen, being convicted of a crime (either through a guilty plea or verdict) can result in deportation.
- Prison term extension: If you were accused of a felony, are convicted, and placed on post-trial release, your prison term can be extended if you violate the conditions of post-trial release.
- Loss of gun rights: If you are accused of a domestic violence offense and plead guilty, you could be subject to a firearm prohibition under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9). You may be subject to this restriction even if you were charged with only a misdemeanor DV crime.
Entering a Plea
Once you know what you have been accused of and what consequences may befall you if convicted, you will be asked to enter a plea.
The types of pleas include:
- Not guilty: Entering this plea means you assert your innocence. Your case will be scheduled for trial.
- Guilty: Saying that you are guilty means you admit to committing the crime. Depending on your case, you will face various sanctions, such as incarceration and/or fines.
- No contest: Pleading no contest means that you neither admit to nor deny the accusations against you. You will be convicted and sentenced.
Speak with an Attorney
During your criminal case, you have the right to be represented by an attorney. You can exercise this right even during the arraignment.
Retaining legal representation early on in your case can help in various ways. They can ensure that you fully understand what you are up against, going into detail about the charges and the potential outcomes based on how you plea. Your lawyer can also provide counsel on what to say and when to say it. Solid legal advice at the beginning stages can prevent any missteps that could have a detrimental effect on your case.