Sometimes. You may be able to resolve your case at arraignment, especially with less serious charges, and eliminate the need to return to court. Speaking with a lawyer before you do so may be important to determine whether there are any additional consequences that are not directly part of the criminal case but that could affect you after you plead guilty.
The procedure for resolving a case at arraignment varies slightly at each court, but in general the process will include the following. You may be asked directly during the arraignment if wish to take care of the matter today. If you agree and the matter is a very minor infraction, the judge or clerk may suggest a resolution to which you may agree or may suggest that you talk to a prosecutor. It is important for you to know that you do not have to agree; you have the right to proceed to a trial.
If you are not asked if you would like to resolve the case today, but would like to do so, you should inquire when you are asked how you would like to plead. The judge may ask you to speak with the prosecutor to see if you can reach an agreement.
If you do not have a lawyer and want to represent yourself, you must waive your right to an attorney and sign a form indicating you have waived counsel before you can speak to a prosecutor. If at some later point you decide you want to hire a lawyer you can withdraw your waiver. The waiver of counsel form must be filed and accepted by the judge and then you may speak with are a prosecutor. It is improper for a prosecutor to speak directly to a criminal defendant until the defendant has signed and filed a Waiver of Counsel .
After you have waived counsel, you may then talk to the prosecutor about resolving your case during a recess or when he or she steps out of the courtroom.
Part 2: Arraignment or First Appearance in Court
- Can court staff help me?
- What should I wear to court?
- Where should I go when I arrive at the court building?
- What should I do when I enter the arraignment courtroom?
- What conduct is expected in the courtroom?
- Who are the people in the courtroom?
- What will happen at my arraignment?
- What is bail (or bond)?
- When can I first talk to my court appointed lawyer?
- Can I dispose of my case at arraignment?
- What happens when I talk to the prosecutor (during a break in my court appearance) about resolving my case?
- Can my case be continued?
- What could my punishment be?
- What happens if I am charged with a crime but I am not a United States citizen?
- What is the difference between civil infractions, misdemeanors and felonies?
- What happens if my case is not resolved at arraignment?
- What should I do before I leave court?
- Part 3: Pre-Trial, Trial and Verdict