If you were arrested and charged with a crime, it is possible that you have no idea what is going on. At this stage, police might not have given you any charging documents or even informed you of what charges you face, especially if you were arrested on a warrant rather than at the scene of the crime. At this point, you might be scheduled to appear at an arraignment, which is your first true court date and the first point where the charges will be read to you and where you will enter a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea.
It is important to have a lawyer represent you in court for criminal charges, and the arraignment is the first stage where your lawyer can do so. For help with your arraignment and each step of a criminal case that comes after, call the Maryland lawyer for criminal arraignments at the Rice, Murtha & Psoras today. Our attorney has decades of experience representing the accused and helping them from arraignment to trial to sentencing. For help with your case, call us today at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case consultation.
Getting a Lawyer for an Arraignment in Maryland
An arraignment is the first true step in your criminal court case. After arrest, you might be held in jail until you can appear in court – and that first time in court is called the arraignment. At this stage, the judge will tell you what charges you face, and you will be provided with charging documents stating those offenses. You will also be asked something along the lines of “how do you plead?”
While the process of an arraignment is primarily a formality, it is nonetheless an important step in your case – one where you should have a lawyer present to help guide you. It might make sense to plead not guilty at arraignment, but there are some detailed nuances to some cases that might make it better to plead differently. It is also important to show that you mean business by showing up to your case with a lawyer from the beginning. This also shows a dedication to protecting your rights and can help the case proceed more smoothly if the prosecution knows you have a lawyer and knows who they are so they can contact them about the case and begin moving the case along.
What Plea to Enter at a Maryland Criminal Arraignment
In most cases, you are going to want to enter a “not guilty” plea at your arraignment. This makes sense if you are going to try to fight the charges and get them reduced or dismissed as the case goes on. Typically, you do not need a lawyer to tell you to plead not guilty – but it is important to understand what your plea means and what is in store for you after entering a guilty or not guilty plea.
It is very important not to enter a guilty plea at this stage if you want to fight the case against you. Once you enter a guilty plea, the judge will typically have you answer a few questions to make sure you are of sound mind at that you understand what you are doing, because a guilty plea – even at this early stage in your case – will mean that the judge enters a conviction on the record and moves your case to sentencing. If you want to enter a guilty plea for moral or ethical reasons, it still might be better to enter a not guilty plea at this stage and avoid immediate conviction.
“Not Guilty” Pleas
If you enter a not guilty plea, the case will be scheduled for the next hearing date. After this point, your attorney can begin negotiating with the prosecution to try to get charges dropped or reduced. Sometimes the initial charges are way higher than they need to be so that the prosecution has bargaining tools to help push for a guilty plea. It happens in many cases that your attorney will get more serious charges dropped in exchange for a plea to a lighter offense, or the prosecutor will drop smaller, nuisance offenses so that penalties for each crime do not stack.
It is vital to work with your lawyer and get help negotiating a plea agreement because these plea deals are not guaranteed. If you plead guilty without a firm, signed agreement in place, there is no guarantee that the prosecution or the judge will look kindly at your case at sentencing, and there is no guarantee that penalties will be reduced in any way.
Other Plea Options
In some cases, there might be pleas other than “guilty” or “not guilty” that you can use. If there might also be civil charges against you, but your lawyer is going to work out a plea agreement in the criminal case, you might be able to enter a “nolo contendere” or “no contest” plea instead. Alternatively, an “Alford plea” might be available so that you can claim actual innocence but acknowledge that the government has enough evidence to convict and allow the conviction to happen without admitting any fault or liability. Your lawyer can help you understand whether these pleas are available in your case and whether you should plea this way at your arraignment.
Call Our Maryland Arraignment Attorney for a Free Legal Consultation
If you are supposed to appear at your arraignment and you do not have a lawyer yet, call the Rice, Murtha & Psoras today. This is your first court date, and it is important to have a lawyer represent you to help protect your rights and help you fight to keep your freedom. For help with your case, call the Maryland lawyer for criminal arraignments at the Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291.