What should I do at my Arraignment?
Asking what will happen at your arraignment is an extremely normal question. The vast majority of people that find themselves in court confronting a criminal case don’t know whether to plead guilty, or not guilty, or whether or not they require a criminal law attorney. Most people you see at your arraignment have never even been in court.
Your Court Date
You should realize that it is critical that you, or a qualified Orange County criminal lawyer, show up at your court date. The court considers your court date important enough to prioritize over every single other alternative, including work and your other responsibilities, like child care or school. The court can and certainly will issue a warrant for your arrest immediately if you or your legal representative do not appear.
Check the Calendar
Now and again, your case may not be filed with the courthouse in time for your court date. So be sure to check the court calendar (on the courtroom walls), to ensure that your case appears. On the off chance that it is NOT recorded, then you ought to check first with the criminal clerk’s office, to check whether the case was moved to a future date.
If there is no future date, then you should check with the prosecutor’s office to see what the status is. You may find that the prosecutor did not file your case in time for your court date. It might be that the case was rejected for inadequate evidence (all things considered, you are fortunate if this happens to your case), or reports are not yet received by the prosecutor’s office from the police, or your entire case was sent back to the police to collect more proof for indictment of your particular crime.
Now and again, the court will have a calendar number which the court will ask about, and you should refer to when the court requests it. Make note of that number. It usually is listed outside the courtroom door.
Your Options: Pleading Guilty or Not Guilty
You have distinctive alternatives, contingent upon whether you wish to enter a request of NOT GUILTY, or GUILTY.
If you wish to enter a request of NOT GUILTY and go to trial, then you have the accompanying extra choices:
Hire a Private Attorney.
Demand a Public Defender; or
Ask for more time.
Let’s look at each of these options a little more closely, to see the details involved.
Option 1 – Represent Yourself.
If you choose to continue without a lawyer and speak for yourself as your own lawyer throughout the case, including at trial, then you will need to fill out a waiver of your right to a lawyer in your case (a Faretta waiver). The court is required to figure out if or not you are skilled to represent yourself by speaking to you and asking if you understand the basic process and charges against you
Option 2 – Hire a Private Attorney.
The court will allow a brief continuance (to the court, “brief” means 2-4 weeks) for you to contact a lawyer. You must sign and present the court’s “Request for Continuance – Misdemeanor Form”. (You can get this form from the bailiff).
By proceeding with the arraignment, you will postpone your right to have a quick trial within 45 days of your first court date. As a result, when the court inquires as to whether you wish to forgo your speedy trial rights, you should say “yes”.
After you obtain your continuance, note the court date and use this time to meet with our experienced criminal defense lawyers and get a free consultation for your DUI or other pending charges.
Option 3-Demand a Public Defender.
The Public Defender is the court’s appointed lawyer for you and your case. You will need to fill out and submit a financial declaration for the court to decide your qualification. At the finish of the case, the court usually holds a hearing to figure out if you should repay Orange County for all or part of the expenses of the Public Defender or other court selected lawyer. (The alternate defender, or a bar panel attorney, can be appointed also). If ordered, that reimbursement turns into a civil judgment against you.
Option 4 – Request more time.
You can also put off making any decision and ask the court for more time to consider any offers made by the prosecutor or the court, or to consult with an Orange County DUI Attorney or Orange County Criminal Lawyer to find out what your best options, and best defenses may be. The court will usually allow you 2-4 weeks to do so.
In the event that you wish to PLEAD GUILTY on your first court date, and concede to the charged offenses, you have the accompanying two choices:
- A – Get a court offer.
- B – Talk with the prosecutor and get an offer from them.
Option A – Get a court offer and Plead Guilty.
The court wants to clear their calendar and provide an incentive to people to plead guilty, rather than go to trial. The court does that by offering the minimum for the crime, which is usually slightly better than what the prosecutor offers. (For example, for a DUI in Orange County without accidents or priors, the court will offer three months of informal probation, the minimum fine of $390, the minimum alcohol school. The DA will offer the same but will add an attendance at the MADD VIP presentation, a DNA sample, search and seizure terms, and may add a longer alcohol school, and community service or physical labor if aggravating factors apply).
The offers for driving under the influence cases, and driving on a suspended license cases are posted in the court, for all to see. If you accept the court offer, you will be given a waiver of rights which you should read and sign.
Once finished, return the form to the bailiff. The judge will then call the case.
Option B – Get an offer from the Prosecutor and Plead Guilty.
This is the Orange County District Attorney prosecutor or City Attorney prosecuting your case. The prosecutor is not your lawyer. They do not represent you or act in your best interests. They will make an offer to resolve the case, which you are allowed to accept or reject.
In the event that you conclude that you would prefer not to accept the offer of the prosecuting lawyer, then you should choose one of the above other choices.
Note: If you are present or former United States military, then you might have extra rights, including the choice to participate in Veteran’s Court. The court has extra documents that clarify those rights if you wish to take an interest in that alternative sentencing program.
What should I do at my Arraignment? That depends on what you want to have happen in your case. Either way, we can advise you and consult with you to make sure your goals are met, and that you make the right decision given the facts of your case.