What Happens At Arraignment In A Florida Criminal Case?
After being arrested on criminal charges in Florida, one of the first proceedings that takes place in the actual courtroom is the arraignment. The Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure use the term initial appearance, in which you are brought before the judge. This hearing must take place within 24 hours after your arrest if you are being detained for a criminal offense, and it may be conducted in-person or via video/audio conference. In addition to you, the judge, and courtroom officials, the prosecutor is present in his or her role as attorney for the government.
Another person you need to make sure is in attendance at your arraignment is your Florida criminal defense lawyer. It may not be your trial, but there is a lot that happens during the initial appearance. You have rights throughout the criminal process, and some of them are affected by what transpires. Your attorney will handle details, but a look at how arraignment works and what to expect is helpful.
Reading of Official Charges: One of the most important tasks for the court at arraignment is reading the criminal charges into the official record. You probably know the general nature of the charges for which you were arrested, but the details matter. Many offenses could be a misdemeanor OR felony under different circumstances. Plus, prosecutors may update or modify the charges if any evidence recovered after your arrest supports a change.
Entering a Plea: Once the official charges are read in open court, the judge will ask you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty; in almost every case, you will state that you are not guilty. However, note that:
- Pleading no contest is an option, but you should only employ this tactic if directed by your lawyer after consultation.
- You might be required to plead guilty if you made arrangements for a plea bargain before your arraignment.
Arrangements for Pretrial Release: By pleading not guilty, you set the stage for pretrial proceedings and eventually a trial. The process may last weeks, so you will want to leverage all opportunities to post bail for pretrial release. For most cases, the judge will allow you to remain free by depositing a bond with the court – as a sort of insurance policy that you will show up for court hearings.
Pretrial release is important because it enables you to work, live at home, and contribute to the family. Plus, you can be in close contact with your defense lawyer to work on strategy.
Opportunity to Confer: Florida law requires that you be allowed to consult with your defense attorney before any forward movement in your case. Even if you do not retain counsel immediately, you will have time to discuss details before the arraignment concludes.
A Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Will Be at Your Side for Arraignment
It is useful to know what happens during the first hearing after an arrest, but going it alone is a mistake. Our team at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. will advocate on your behalf and protect your rights, so please contact us today to set up a consultation at our offices in Jupiter, FL.