Do I Need a Lawyer at My Arraignment?

If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, you may be wondering what you can do for yourself and what requires an attorney. You may be tempted to try to handle much of the process yourself to save money, but you need to consider the ramifications. If you are charged with a crime, you need to know the procedure, your rights under the law and much more. When what you don’t know could hurt you, it is time to consider hiring a criminal justice lawyer.

What Is an Arraignment?

Even if you have been arrested on suspicion that you committed a crime, you must be formally advised by the court. The formal charges are presented at the arraignment. At that time, you’ll be expected to enter a plea. According to the state in which the arraignment occurs, the judge may also issue a decision on whether or not you’ll get to remain free or in jail pending a trial.

Should I Have a Lawyer There?

You will be offered a choice of pleas: Guilty, not guilty or no contest. Chances are, you aren’t going to plead guilty and throw yourself on the mercy of the court from the start. However, do you understand the ramifications of each plea? A criminal justice attorney does, and he or she can advise you of your rights under the law and the best strategy for your case.

During the arraignment, you may also be offered a plea deal. These are designed to expedite the process, particularly if the evidence against you is light, or if the prosecutor wants to reduce the court caseload. How do you know whether to take the deal or proceed with a trial? Odds are that you don’t, which is another reason why you should have an attorney present.

If you enter a plea of not guilty, the following things can happen:

  • You’ll be advised of the next event, such as a trial date.
  • Your bail will be considered.
  • If you do not have an attorney, the court will appoint one for you.
  • You could be asked to “waive time” or give up the right to a speedy trial.

How Do I Find an Attorney?

There are several ways to look for an attorney. When you need to find someone experienced in criminal law, you can ask for referrals from friends and family, or you can look up a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco, CA. Otherwise, you can let the court assign an attorney. If you’ve been accused of a crime, it is highly advisable to seek legal representation.

Thanks to The Morales Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and arraignment.