If you are going to be charged with a crime, the first appearance in court is called an “arraignment.” This is a procedural hearing where the timeline for your case is set out, and other administrative matters are attended to. While an early step in the legal process, arraignments are important because they set the stage for the rest of your case, and not taking one seriously can do significant damage to your case that may not be able to be reversed.
Fortunately, our lawyers can help. We are experienced criminal attorneys who can represent you from the initial arraignment all the way through trial and beyond.
For a free, confidential review of your situation, call our criminal defense attorneys with Overson & Bugden, at (801) 758-2287.
What is a Criminal Arraignment?
A criminal arraignment is an official court proceeding where someone charged with a crime is officially told about the charges against them. At an arraignment, the defendant also enters their initial plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. One important thing to remember is that although you are in court and our criminal defense lawyers will be present, an arraignment is not a trial. You are not going to be convicted of anything during an arraignment. The idea is to set up and schedule the rest of the legal proceedings and decisions up to and including a jury trial.
What Happens During a Criminal Arraignment
A criminal arraignment can have many steps and processes that can be confusing for individuals without dedicated legal training. Below is our guide to some of the things you can expect to happen during a criminal arraignment in Salt Lake City.
Calling a Case
When you arrive in court for an arraignment, you may not stand before a judge right away. Arrangements do not necessarily take a long time, so there may be several other parties ahead of you on the schedule getting arraigned or otherwise going through various court proceedings. Eventually, your case will be “called,” and it will be your turn to stand before the judge.
Even though you may not be arraigned right away, it is important that you show up to your court date early. This gives our lawyers time to explain things to you. More importantly, showing up late is a good way to paint yourself in a negative light from the start, which is not good for the prospects of your case, even if the facts and law are otherwise in your favor.
Hearing the Charges Against You
One of the most important things that happens in an arraignment is that the defendant will hear the full extent of the charges against them – potentially for the first time. While traditionally, the judge will read the charges to the defendant, the usual practice is for the defendant to waive the reading and have the charges sent to their attorney in writing for closer examination. In addition to that benefit, this keeps the charges against you private from anyone else in the courtroom who is not involved in your case.
Following hearing the charges against you or receiving them in writing, the prosecution will generally give a short summary of their case. This is important to the judge because they have many proceedings that they deal with each day, so they may not be able to have a perfect recollection of your particular case.
After hearing the charges against you, you then enter your plea of “guilty,” “no contest,” or “not guilty.” Guilty and not guilty, as their names would suggest, are an admission of guilt or a declaration of innocence. A plea of no contest is the middle option. Essentially, you are not admitting guilt, but you are also not arguing against the charges at that time.
These pleas have different effects that are important for you to understand. A guilty plea is an admission of guilt under the law. You will be convicted of the crime you allegedly committed. However, it may allow you to negotiate a lesser charge with the prosecution. A plea of no contest has some of the same effects as a guilty plea. Namely, that you will be convicted of the alleged crime. However, it is not an admission of guilt.
In most cases, it is advisable to enter a plea of not guilty. The chief function of this plea is to preserve your right to a fair, speedy jury trial. However, you should note that a plea of not guilty will generally prevent you from making some deals with the prosecution.
It is important that you speak with our lawyers about what plea is best to enter in an arraignment based on the facts and circumstances of your case.
You will often face bail determinations at the same time as your arraignment. If you are found to be a flight risk or a danger to the community, the judge might try to deny you bail or issue a high bail amount to ensure you return to court at your next hearing date. Our attorneys can work to get bail set at a reasonable amount or seek ROR (release on your own recognizance) bail so that you can prepare for your case at home rather than in jail.
Setting Pretrial and Trial Date
Another important function of an arraignment is setting the initial date for your trial as well as other court proceedings. The judge will set a pretrial date as well as a tentative date for a trial. This is a cooperative process between our lawyers, the prosecutor, and the judge so that it fits into everyone’s schedule and respects your right to a quick trial.
Speak with Our Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
Call Overson & Bugden’s criminal defense lawyers at the number (801) 758-2287 for a free case review.