09 Oct What You Need to Know about Arraignment
When you’re accused of a crime, you have the right to know why you’re being accused and you have a right to say whether or not you’re guilty of committing it. If you’ve had time to find a lawyer, make sure he knows what charges you’re facing. Your attorney will be able to advise you on what type of plea (guilty, not guilty or no contest) you should enter.It’s best to have an attorney present for your arraignment, as well; he’ll be able to help you understand anything that’s confusing about your charges and explain the possible penalties.
Your Rights During Your Arraignment
You must be arraigned within a reasonable time after your arrest. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees your right to a speedy trial, which prevents you from sitting in jail for months or years without even being made aware of your formal charges.
The court will tell you that you have the right to have an attorney represent you, that you have the right to a fair trial by a jury of your peers, and you have the right not to incriminate yourself. Once that’s done, the judge will read off your official charges and, if you request it, give you a written copy of the document that states your charges.
The 3 Pleas You Can Enter at Your Arraignment
After you’ve been informed of your rights, you canthen enter your plea. There are three types of pleas:
- Not guilty.If you have an attorney, he may recommend that you enter a plea of not guilty; that’s because strategically, it forces the prosecutor to prove that you are guilty. (That’s the prosecutor’s job, anyway.)
- Guilty.If you choose to enter a guilty plea, and if your crime is considered minor, the judge might sentence you on the spot.
- No contest.Finally, you can choose to plead “no contest.” This type of plea is not admitting guilt; rather, it’s admitting that the prosecutor does have enough evidence to prove that you committed a crime.
Most people choose to have a lawyer present during arraignment, and it might be the best choice for you, too. He’ll walk you through the entire process and give you step-by-step guidance along the way, making sure you understand what’s going on and the possible consequences for the decisions you make.
This is a transcription of an interview with James Medows.