During a criminal prosecution, defendants are given a chance to inform the court how they plead to the charge. This is usually “not guilty,” but some people choose to plead guilty if they know that they committed the crime and don’t see any reason to prolong the process. The defendant’s plea is heard by the court in the arraignment.
A few things happen during the arraignment hearing for which you need be prepared ahead of time. The court is going to read the charges against you as official notification. It is important to listen carefully during this part of the hearing since the exact charges may play a role in how you decide to plead.
You will be asked if you have an attorney. This is the part of the criminal justice process during which some defendants are appointed a public defender by the court. If you are able to afford your own counsel, this doesn’t apply.
You will be asked to plead to the charges read against you. The two most common pleas are “guilty” and “not guilty.” There is a third option, “no contest,” that may be applicable in your situation. Once your plea is entered, the court will take a look at the bail amount that was previously ordered. In some cases, defendants might be released on their own recognizance.
The decisions you make during your arraignment can impact the outcome of your criminal case. Be sure that you speak to your attorney prior to entering the plea so that you fully understand the options and can make an informed choice about which is best for you.