An arraignment is usually a defendant’s first chance to formally hear the charges against them. What usually happens is the Judge will call the defendant’s name and the Defendant will walk up to the podium where the Judge will read the charges and ask the Defendant “What do you plea?”
- An arraignment is the first time a defendant will be told the charge against them. A judge read’s the probable cause affidavit in open court and asks the defendant a series of questions.
- The first question is typically does the defendant have a lawyer and if not do they intend to hire a private attorney or utilize the services of the public defender.
- After asking about the lawyer, the Judge will ask how does the defendant plea? At that point the defendant can plead 1) guilty as charged; 2) no contest; 3) not guilty or 4) stand mute – at which the judge would enter a plea on behalf of the defendant of not guilty.
- At arraignment the prosecutor will typically make an offer to resolve the case – this is called a plea offer. The plea offer can be pretrial diversion, court cost, community, service, probation or jail. The type of plea offer a defendant is given is based on a number of factors such as the type of crime committed, the input of the victim, the defendant’s criminal history, and whether there are any issues within the case.
- The Judge can make you an offer. A lot people do not realize this but if you do not like what the state is offering you, you could always ask the judge to make you a plea offer. This can be done in two ways: 1) An open plea where you throw yourself at the mercy of the court or 2) inviting the court into negotiations which typically happens when the prosecutor and you disagree on a term of the agreement.
Arraignments are usually intimidating because there is always the fear of the unknown. Arraignment is not quite the most critical point in a case but it does set the tone. If you’re about to go to court for an arraignment keep this post in mind.
Don’t be afraid to ask the public defender for help if you need.
If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, or Palm Beach County give me a call at 954-982-2124 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d love to see if I can help.
Houson R. Lafrance