What Happens at an Arraignment?

What Happens at an Arraignment?

If you are charged with a crime, you are likely overwhelmed and wondering what to expect. There are many steps in the Arizona criminal trial process and one of the earliest proceedings is the arraignment. This is when the judge will officially inform you of the charges you are facing and ask you to enter your plea.

Arraignment vs Initial Appearance

Many people are confused as to the difference between an arraignment or an initial appearance, which is also called an IA. If you are facing misdemeanor charges, the two will take place at the same time. Most first-time driving under the influence (DUI) charges are misdemeanors, unless there are aggravating factors.

If you are facing felony charges, your initial appearance is different from your arraignment. The IA must take place within 24 hours of your arrest. The judge will tell you what the allegations against you are, will advise you of your right to legal representation, and will set the conditions of your release. You do not have to enter your plea at this time, which is what makes it different from an arraignment.

Elements of an Arraignment

The following things will occur at an arraignment:
  • You'll hear the charges against you, or the court will present these in writing. In a felony case, you will have already heard this at your IA, although they may have changed. At this time, the judge will also explain the possible consequences of the charges you are facing.
  • The court will inform you of your rights. Notably, they will remind you of your right to legal counsel. Ideally, you should be working with an attorney prior to your arraignment. Contacting a law firm as soon as possible can help ensure the best possible legal outcome.
  • The judge will ask you to enter a plea.
  • Plea Options

    In most cases, there are three options for your plea. You should consult with your attorney to determine how to plead at your arraignment.

    The types of pleas:
    • Not Guilty: If you plead "not guilty," the court will move forward in scheduling a trial.
    • Guilty: After a guilty plea, the judge will determine sentencing. You are waiving your right to a jury trial.
    • No Contest: This is similar to a guilty plea in that the judge will move forward in sentencing you without a trial. The difference is that you do not directly admit guilt, which may be important if you are the defendant in a civil case as well.

    What Does NOT Happen at an Arraignment

    One common misconception is that you will be able to "tell your side of the story" at an arraignment. This is not the same thing as a trial and neither the defense nor the prosecution will be presenting evidence.

    Prepare for Your Arraignment

    If you are facing criminal charges, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney as soon as possible. We can help you prepare for your arraignment and will go over the facts of your case to help you understand your options.

    Contact DUI Defense Team today for a free consultation.
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Tucson, AZ. 85716