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June 13, 2024
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Arraignment Hearing for Felony Charges: What to Expect

If you have been arrested and accused of a crime, your first court appearance will be an arraignment hearing. This initial hearing is a critical stage in your criminal case, as it informs you of your rights and the charges against you.

Having an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side can help you understand what to expect at an arraignment and make informed decisions. This blog provides a comprehensive overview of what happens at felony and misdemeanor arraignments.

What is an Arraignment Hearing?

An arraignment hearing is a formal court proceeding where you are formally notified of the criminal charges filed against you.

This hearing typically occurs within 48 hours of your arrest. At arraignment, the judge will:

  • Inform you of your constitutional rights, including your right to an attorney
  • Notify you of the exact charges against you
  • Ask you to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, no contest)
  • Set or modify bail
  • Schedule future court dates

Arraignment provides you with your first opportunity to appear before a judge after your arrest. Understanding what happens and having legal counsel present allows you to protect your rights from the outset.

Arraignments for Felony Cases

If you have been charged with a felony, there will be two separate arraignment hearings:

Initial Felony Arraignment

The first felony arraignment occurs at the start of your criminal case, typically within 48 hours of your arrest. At this hearing:

  • The judge will advise you of your constitutional rights
  • You will be formally notified of the specific felony charges against you
  • You can enter a plea or request a continuance to seek legal counsel
  • Bail may be set or modified

This initial hearing allows you to be informed of your rights and the charges you face shortly after your arrest. Having a criminal justice attorney present can help guide your plea and bail decisions.

Second Felony Arraignment

After the preliminary hearing, a second arraignment takes place. This hearing may occur weeks or months after your initial arraignment. At this stage:

  • If indicted, formal felony charges from the grand jury are presented
  • You are again informed of the charges against you
  • You can enter or modify your plea

An experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate with the prosecution during this window to potentially have charges reduced or dismissed. Having skilled legal counsel looking out for your rights is critical.

What Happens at a Misdemeanor Arraignment?

For less serious misdemeanor charges, there is typically only one arraignment hearing. This proceeding normally occurs within 14 days of your arrest. The judge will:

  • Advise you of your constitutional rights
  • Inform you of the misdemeanor charges against you
  • Ask you to enter a plea
  • Set or adjust your bail
  • Assign future court dates

Much like a felony arraignment, this hearing allows you to be notified of the charges against you and informed of your rights. Having an attorney can help guide your plea decision and seek bail modifications.

Your Constitutional Rights at Arraignment

During your arraignment, the judge will advise you of your constitutional rights, including:

  • Right to an attorney – You can hire your own criminal defense lawyer or have a public defender appointed if you cannot afford representation.
  • Right to remain silent – You can plead not guilty and exercise your right against self-incrimination. What you say at your hearing can be used against you.
  • Right to reasonable bail – Bail should not be excessive. Your attorney can request bail modifications.
  • Right to a speedy trial – You have the right to a trial within a reasonable time period, often within 175 days of your arraignment.

Knowing your rights is key to protecting yourself during your criminal case. Having an attorney ensures these rights are preserved.

The Arraignment Plea

A critical component of your arraignment hearing is entering a plea. Common pleas include:

  • Guilty – You admit guilt and waive your right to trial.
  • Not Guilty – You plead innocence and can proceed to trial.
  • No Contest – You do not admit guilt but accept punishment as if guilty.

Your attorney can advise which plea is right for your case. Pleading not guilty preserves all your legal options going forward.

Having an Attorney at Your Arraignment

Having skilled legal counsel at your arraignment is highly beneficial. An attorney can:

  • Advise you on whether to accept a plea deal or proceed to trial
  • Argue for reduced or dismissed charges
  • Seek bail modifications so you can be released
  • Begin building your legal defense immediately
  • Protect your constitutional rights

Do not go through your arraignment alone. Hire an attorney to defend your rights from the start.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are facing criminal charges, having an experienced defense lawyer on your side can make all the difference at your arraignment and beyond. The federal criminal defense lawyers team at Whalen Law Office in Frisco has a proven track record of achieving positive outcomes for clients facing arraignment. Call today to schedule a consultation and get legal guidance you can trust.

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