Starting Off On The Right Foot At Your Arraignment
In many kinds of legal actions, dealing with the court is an exercise in waiting; personal injury cases take an eternity, and some divorce cases last longer than the marriage ever did. By contrast, criminal cases start quickly. The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a speedy trial, and if the court subjects you to unnecessary delays in a criminal case against you, you have the right to give the prosecution one last chance to speed things up or else to concede that it cannot reasonably convict you of a crime. Preparing for a trial takes time, and a trial that happened too soon would be as unfair as one that happened too late. One part of the case that always happens quickly, however, is the arraignment. If you have been arrested on suspicion of a crime, then your arraignment is right around the corner, so now is the time to contact a Tampa criminal defense lawyer.
What Happens at an Arraignment?
If the defendant has been detained in jail since the arrest, then the arraignment happens 72 hours after the arrest, or as close to 72 hours as is possible given the hours that the courthouse is open. If you were arrested at 11 p.m. on Saturday, your arraignment might be at 8 a.m. on Wednesday instead of 11 p.m. on Tuesday, for example. If you were released from jail shortly after your arrest, with or without posting bail, then the arraignment could be slightly later, but it is always within a few weeks of the arrest.
At the arraignment, the court formally notifies you of the charges against you. You receive a written statement of the charges, and the judge also reads the statement out loud. This might sound superfluous, but arraignments have been around since the Middle Ages, when most people did not know how to read, so reading the charges out loud was the only way to be fair to defendants and make sure that they knew what they were being accused of doing.
After the court notifies you of the charges, you enter a plea. Your case will proceed to trial if you plead not guilty. If you do not respond when asked to enter a plea, the court will record it as a not guilty plea and the preparations for the trial will proceed. If you plead guilty or no contest, the next step will be sentencing. The difference between “guilty” and “no contest” is that the latter does not entail admitting fault. This way, if someone harmed by the crime files a civil lawsuit, there is no record that you confessed to the theft, assault, fraud, or whichever action led to the civil and criminal cases against you. If you plead guilty in the criminal case, the plaintiff automatically wins the civil case.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
A criminal defense lawyer can help you strategize about pleas and defenses before your arraignment. Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.