What is an arraignment?
The lawyers at the Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Palm Beach County Criminal law firm of Berman and Tsombanakis, LLC, are often asked by our clients what an arraignment is and what happens at the arraignment. An arraignment is the formal reading of the criminal complaint in the presence of the defendant. At the arraignment the defendant is informed of the charges against them. Shortly after a defendant is arrested and is either released on bond or held in jail, their case will be given an arraignment date. This typically occurs about 30-45 days after their first appearance hearing and/or there release from jail. Between arrest and arraignment is usually the time when most defendants obtain an attorney.
What happens procedurally at an arraignment?
The procedures that occur at arraignment are defined in Florida Statute 3.160, in part it states the following:
- At an arraignment, the Judge, Clerk, an Attorney from the State Attorney’s, Defense Attorney (if one has been retained) and the Defendant are all present in court.
- Either the Judge, Clerk or Asst. State Attorney will read the information or indictment in open court and the Defendant and Counsel will be called upon to address the court and enter the defendant’s plea.
- The reading or statement of the charges may be waived by the defendant. If the defendant is represented by counsel, then counsel may file a written plea of not guilty at or before an arraignment and the arraignment shall be deemed waived.
Types of pleas one may enter : the defendant can enter a plea of not guilty, guilty or nolo contendere (no contest). In most cases the defendant enters a not guilty plea and the case is set for a pre trial conference and placed on to the trial calendar. In misdemeanor court and especially in first offense cases, it is very common to see pleas of no contest entered and some defendants are offered pre trial diversion as well at this phase. If the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere, then this case ends at the arraignment hearing and the judge will issue a sentence in open court. Some cases, especially felonies cases, maybe set for a sentencing hearing for a later date.
If a defendant hires an attorney well in advance of the arraignment date, the attorney can file what is called a “written plea of not guilty and a waiver of arraignment.” If this is done, the clerk of courts notes the appearance of the attorney in their system and enters a not guilty plea. Thus, neither the attorney nor the defendant has to appear at arraignment. This is a great advantage of hiring an attorney very early in the process.
Some arraignments are done via video conferencing. This occurs when there are transportation issues or when jurisdictions conduct their arraignments from the jail courtroom. This may also occur when the defendant is out of county being held in jail in another jurisdiction. The same procedures above will occur during the video arraignment as well.
What happens after arraignment?
If a plea of not guilty is entered, then the time after the arraignment is when your defense attorney will prepare your case for trial or set a later plea date or motion hearing. By statute, Florida law affords the defendant a reasonable time to prepare for trial.
If you or a family member have been arrested for a crime anywhere in Broward County, Miami-Dade County, or Palm Beach County, please email or call one of the lawyers at the Criminal Defense Law Firm of Berman & Tsombanakis LLC. at (954) 764-6099 or (954) 728-8885. We will be happy to discuss your case with you at length and chart the best course of action and put forth the best and most aggressive legal defense