What is an Arraignment?
After someone has been arrested and booked for a crime, the court still has to issue formal charges describing the crimes that person has allegedly committed. The usual process for formally presenting these charges is known as an arraignment. An arraignment is the first courtroom-based stage of the criminal law process.
It also marks the point at which you cease dealing with the police and begin dealing with the court. At your arraignment, you are expected to show up to court on time and dressed presentably. A judge will address you, reading off your charges and reminding you of your right to legal counsel. Although you can legally seek the help of a lawyer at any point before this – when dealing with the police, for example – it becomes even more important when you are facing your arraignment.
After the judge has read the charges to you, you will be asked to make a plea. At this point you would ideally have been working with a lawyer, discussing your case in private and determining what plea to make. When it comes time to face the judge, you can plead one of three ways: guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Pleading “no contest” means you are not asserting your innocence nor admitting to guilt. Finally, the judge will announce your future courtroom dates.
If you have been arrested and accused of a crime, you should seek the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible. By seeking the help of a lawyer well before your arraignment, you can approach the judge confidently. The sooner you have a lawyer on your side, the greater your chances of reducing your charges and proving your innocence.