Understanding Your Arraignment

How to Find a Good Lawyer

When criminal charges are made against you, it is vital that you hire an attorney as soon as possible. One of the very first things that will happen is called an arraignment. Do you understand what happens at an arraignment? You are probably also wondering if a lawyer should attend your arraignment. This guide will answer both these questions.

Know What an Arraignment Is

The arraignment is the first court appearance in any criminal case. For the most part, the arraignment handles exclusively administrative tasks. For example, arguably the most important thing that happens at the arraignment is your court date being set. Other things that happen at this time are:

  • Explain the charges
  • Set bail
  • Ask for a plea

The judge will set bail, which is the amount of money you would have to pay to leave jail. If you choose not to pay your bail, you will stay in jail until your court date. The judge will also ask you to make a plea. This is essentially when you will decide if you want to admit your guilt or fight to have the charges dropped. If you plead guilty, then you will be sentenced immediately. A court date will only be set if you plead innocent. You can also plead no contest, but that usually only applies if you have no memory of the crime.

Should Your Lawyer Be There?

Now for the big question: Should you have a lawyer at your arraignment. If you have a good understanding of what happens at an arraignment, then the answer is no. It is not a requirement for your lawyer to attend.

However, it is very beneficial for you to have some form of legal representation present. A lawyer will be able to advise you and make requests on your behalf more effectively than you would be able to. There is no way for you to know in advance how much time will be between your arraignment and your court date. If you plan on pleading innocent, then you should definitely have already hired an attorney before your arraignment. There simply might not be enough time for you to hire one afterward.

Keep in mind that in criminal cases, you have the right to a public defender. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you at the arraignment. You do not need to pay your public defender at all. If you do plan on hiring a criminal defense attorney in San Mateo, CA, however, you should do so as soon as you are arrested.

Thanks to the Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and understanding your arraignment.