Not many are prepared when they find themselves behind bars. Most of those jailed are angry and embarrassed but mostly confused about what is next. In most cases, you will be facing a number of decisions in a very short time, so read on so you will know what to expect or how to help a family member who is about to face an arraignment.
Arraignments in a Nutshell
An arraignment is a court hearing, though it's a very short one. In some cases, an arraignment takes place in a room at the jail but it can also occur in a nearby courthouse. Often, hearings take place at the correctional facility and the proceedings are piped in via video. You will not be alone at the arraignment — you'll take your turn among others. You can expect your time in front of the judge to last 3–5 minutes max.
The Timing of Arrangements
Things are different from place to place so it's difficult to predict when the arraignment will happen. Not only do local customs affect when this hearing is held but the time of the arrest plays a part too. Those arrested on weekends or holidays may have to wait for the next business day to be arraigned. You should not have to wait longer than a day or two at the most, however.
Arraignment Activities to Expect
While what goes on at an arraignment can vary, you might experience the following important events during your hearing:
- Charge information — You may be officially informed of the charges in detail.
- Pleadings — You may be asked to enter a plea of "guilty", "not guilty", or "no contest". It's advisable to enter a "not guilty" plea at the arraignment. You can change the plea later and it looks better to go from a not guilty plea to a guilty plea rather than the opposite.
- Legal representation — The judge may ask you about your legal help situation during the arraignment — unless you have already have a lawyer with you at the time. Most defendants are not yet represented by a lawyer and the judge needs to know if you want to use a public defender for legal help. Only those with little to no financial resources can use public defenders.
- Bail — Finally, if you can be bailed out of jail you are provided with the sum of money you'll need to pay to do so. Most people end up using a bail bonding company since it's the least expensive way to get out of jail.
You'll need a criminal defense lawyer to help you get through the rest of the process, so speak to one today.
Contact a criminal law service for more information.