The arraignment is similar to the first hearing, but in the federal justice system. At an arraignment, a federal defendant enters a plea to the charges brought against him by the government. Although more than 90 percent of all federal criminal cases result in an eventual plea agreement for a conviction with lesser penalties, most federal defendants plead not guilty. However, defendants have the option of pleading guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). Pleading no contest is essentially the same as pleading guilty, without the guilty plea going on the record. It is often a concession added by the prosecutor in a plea bargain.
What Happens At An Arraignment
At the arraignment, the judge will review the charges to determine whether there is sufficient evidence for probable cause for the arrest. The defendant will be advised of his or her right to retain a lawyer. If the defendant lacks the resources to retain an attorney, the court will appoint one from the local federal public defender’s office or a “CJA” lawyer, under provisions of the Criminal Justice Act.
The prosecutor and the defense attorney will be given the opportunity to make arguments regarding whether the defendant should be held in pretrial custody or released on recognizance or bail.
Why An Experienced Attorney Is Necessary For The Arraignment Process
Television crime shows make it appear as if very little of any consequence occurs at the arraignment hearing. In fact, it will be your lawyer’s first opportunity to fully review the prosecutor’s evidence and prepare initial arguments regarding the case against you. The right defense attorney can save you many thousands of dollars and time in custody with a well-prepared argument for releasing you on your own recognizance or reduced bail.
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If you are facing federal criminal charges in U.S. Southern Florida District Court or U.S. Middle Florida District Court, your future and your freedom are at stake from the first time you step into an arraignment hearing. Make sure you have a criminal defense lawyer who is up to the task. Call O’Brien Hatfield, P.A.. We have offices in Tampa and Orlando. Call us at 813-440-2347 or send an email explaining the circumstances of your charges. We offer a free initial consultation to review your case.