An Arraignment is your first court appearance where you are informed of the charges brought against you and whether you will plea Not Guilty or Guilty. You will not be penalized if you plead Not guilty at this time and choose to exercise your rights. Typically, if you are out of custody your attorney can make the appearance for you. If it is a felony or you are in custody then you will need to appear. During Arraignment if you are in custody or there is an arrest warrant for you, your attorney may also seek for an Own Recognizance Release or Bail Reduction.
If you plead Not guilty the court will set a future court date, which may include a pretrial, preliminary hearing, status check or a trial date depending on the offense and court. Your Discovery will probably be available for your attorney to review. Because the Arraignment is early in the judicial process and you or your attorney has not had the opportunity to review the evidence (if any is even available at this early stage), it is in your best interest to plea Not Guilty.
Do I need A Lawyer At My Arraignment?
In most cases, the Judge will continue Arraignment for you to have a private attorney with you especially if the prosecutors are seeking jail time, but this is no guarantee. An attorney can help in several ways though. You may be able to have your attorney appear on your behalf at the Arraignment, saving you time and stress. Your attorney can ensure you plea Not Guilty at the Arraignment and your attorney may be able to start negotiating with the prosecuting attorney. If there is an arrest warrant for your arrest, then your attorney can file a Motion to Place on Calendar for Arraignment, Own Recognizance Release or Bail Reduction as well.
If you fail to appear at your Arraignment then the Court will issue a Failure To Appear Bench warrant for your arrest.