What to Expect at an Arraignment

After you get arrested or charged with a crime, you will have an arraignment, which is the first time that you go to court. The arraignment could happen as soon as the day of your arrest or the next day. A Seattle criminal defense attorney can advocate for you at the arraignment and throughout the criminal case. 

The court will tell you these things at the arraignment:

  • The charges against you. These charges get read in the open courtroom. Everyone else on that court docket will hear the accusations you face. You have a constitutional right to hear the charges against you so that you can prepare a defense. It is impossible to prepare a defense if you do not know the accusations.
  • The range of punishment for those charges.
  • Your constitutional rights. One thing the U.S. Constitution guarantees, in the sixth amendment, is the right to a speedy trial. This guarantee is why the arraignment happens so quickly. Also, you have a right to have a lawyer. You can request a public defender. If you meet the financial requirements, you can get a public defender at no cost to you. Taxpayers provide the funding for public defenders. You have the right to hire your own criminal defense attorney instead of using a public defender. 
  • The amount of your bail. Your lawyer can ask the judge to reduce the bail to an amount you can afford or ask that you not have to pay any bail. If you do not have to pay bail, the judge releases you on your promise to return for the next court date. 
  • The date of your next court appearance. 

Sometimes the judge issues a no-contact order or an anti-harassment order that forbids you from contacting witnesses and the alleged victim between the time of the arraignment and trial.

Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty

You will either plead “guilty” or “not guilty” at the arraignment. If you plead guilty, you will not have a trial. The judge will decide your fate, within the range of possible punishments for the charges. You should always get legal advice before pleading guilty. 

The only way to get your “day in court” is to plead not guilty. After a not guilty plea, your criminal defense attorney can build your defense case. 

The Importance of Coming to All Scheduled Court Appearances

The arraignment is the first of multiple court appearances in a criminal case. If you get released on bail and do not show up at any scheduled court date, the judge can issue a bench warrant, leading to your re-arrest. If the judge allows you to get released on bail after a failure to appear at a court appearance, the amount of bail will likely be higher than if you had been required to pay bail initially.

Getting a criminal conviction can change your life permanently. You might not get into the college of your choice or land that dream job. The social stigma of a criminal record can be embarrassing for you and your family.

Contact Jennifer today to discuss your situation in detail. She will fight hard for you and protect your legal rights.

DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights, and some general information on arraignments. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.