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What to Expect at Your Arraignment

Law Offices Michael S. Rosofsky May 24, 2024

If you've been arrested and taken into custody, you may be wondering what the next days and weeks will look like for your case.

An arraignment is usually the first court date in a criminal case. If you're not familiar with how the court process works, an arraignment may seem particularly confusing and anxiety-inducing because you probably don’t know what to expect at this stage.  

Our attorney at the Law Offices Michael S. Rosofsky has more than 25 years of experience in defending criminal cases, ranging from DWI to domestic violence. We can explain what an arraignment is and help you prepare for what’s going to happen during this proceeding. We know how much is on the line and will take great care in handling your case. Our office is in Annapolis, Maryland, but we serve clients throughout Anne Arundel County and Baltimore County.  

What Is an Arraignment?

An arraignment is a court proceeding in which the defendant – the person facing criminal charges – is brought before a judicial officer of the district court. This proceeding is the defendant’s first formal appearance in court.  

From a legal perspective, an arraignment serves two purposes: to formally notify the defendant of the charges and to give the defendant the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. In Maryland, the defendant’s first court appearance must occur within 24 hours of their arrest if the arrest was without a warrant (Md. Rule 4-212). 

Plea Options at an Arraignment

The defendant’s plea is perhaps the most important part of an arraignment as it sets the stage for how your case proceeds through the court system. With the guidance from an attorney, you can choose between three plea options:  

  1. “Guilty” plea. If you plead guilty, you admit that you committed the crime you are being accused of. If this happens, your case will proceed to the sentencing phase where it will be up to the judge to determine how you should be punished.  

  1. “Not guilty” plea. If you plead not guilty, you essentially tell the court that you don't agree with the charges against you and that you are ready to proceed to trial where the prosecution will have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  

  1. “No contest” plea. This plea option serves as a middle ground between a guilty plea and a not guilty plea. When you plead no contest, you do not acknowledge your guilt, nor do you deny it. However, you give up your right to a trial and agree to accept punishment.  

Now that you know your plea options at the arraignment, you may still be confused as to how you should plead. Everyone’s situation is unique and requires individual attention from an attorney.  

What Happens at the Arraignment? 

You cannot prepare for your arraignment if you don’t know what will happen during this proceeding. For this reason, we decided to break down the anatomy of a typical arraignment to help you get a better understanding of what to expect:  

  • You will be informed of the charges. First and foremost, the court will formally read the charges against you.  

  • You will have the opportunity to enter a plea. As discussed in the section above, your plea options include guilty, not guilty, and no contest.  

  • The judge will address bail and conditions of release. The judge will have to determine whether it is appropriate to set bail and, if so, in what amount and what the conditions of release should be.  

  • The sides can address legal issues. The defense and the prosecution can bring up the legal issues that may affect the trial. If appropriate, the judge will schedule hearings to address these issues.  

While the arraignment is not a trial, it is nonetheless a critical stage of the criminal court process. If you are waiting for your arraignment, the time is right to begin formulating a defense strategy with the help of an attorney.  

What Happens When an Arraignment Is Over?

The judge will usually announce a date or dates for further proceedings in the case at the end of the arraignment.  

If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, the judge may proceed to sentencing either immediately after the proceeding or at a later date.  

If the defendant enters a not-guilty plea, the judge will schedule a date for trial.  

The judge may also make arrangements regarding bail, further detention, or release from custody when the arraignment is over.  

Do You Need an Attorney for Your Arraignment?

While the law doesn’t require you to have legal counsel for the arraignment process, not having an attorney during your first court appearance may put you at a disadvantage. Without adequate legal representation, you could end up accepting a plea deal that doesn’t serve you well. When deciding whether you should hire an attorney or not, consider these prominent benefits of having legal counsel: 

  • An attorney can help you make an informed decision regarding your plea options based on the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case. 

  • An attorney will argue for a reasonable bail amount in your case. 

  • An attorney will ensure your rights are protected and respected during the arraignment process and beyond. 

  • An attorney will communicate with the prosecution to negotiate a more favorable plea deal or a potentially lesser charge. 

  • An attorney will explain what to say and what not to say during your arraignment.  

There’s nothing better than feeling confident and prepared when entering the courtroom for your arraignment. And our attorney at Law Offices Michael S. Rosofsky is here to help you feel this way.  

Get Help from an Attorney

Are you facing criminal charges and awaiting your arraignment in Annapolis or anywhere else in Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties? If this sounds like your situation, reach out to Law Offices Michael S. Rosofsky to get the help you need. Our attorney can explain the arraignment process and prepare you for your upcoming court appearance. Get in touch to schedule a free phone consultation and get started today.