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Florida Criminal Law: What is an Arraignment?

In Florida, once you’ve been arrested, booked (i.e., administrative and procedural processing that takes place at a police station, such as fingerprinting, record search on one’s criminal history, personal search, property confiscation, mug shots, etc.), and either put into police custody or released from custody, you should be given notice of an arraignment proceeding that will take place within 24 hours.

Arraignment is essentially a hearing at which a judge formally presents the criminal charges that have been brought against you, and gives you an opportunity to enter a plea.  You are not required to have an attorney present at your arraignment, but it is highly encouraged that you consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney during this phase.  Your attorney will evaluate the charges and will work with you to determine how best to proceed.

It should also be noted that — in Florida — it is not necessary to attend an arraignment if you are represented by an attorney.  Your attorney may file a written plea and thereby waive the arraignment hearing.  If you do not retain an attorney (and waive the arraignment), then you will be legally required to attend the hearing.  Failure to do so could give rise to penalties, and could undermine your defense.

Entering a Plea

At the formal arraignment hearing, you will have an opportunity to enter one of three different pleas to the individual charges that have been brought against you: not guiltyguilty, and no contest.

Not Guilty

Pleading not guilty operates as a denial of guilt to the criminal charges at-issue.  If you plead not guilty, then you will have to request a jury trial or a trial by judge, so that further proceedings can be administered in accordance with your request.

Guilty

Pleading guilty operates as an admission of guilt to the criminal charges at-issue.  The court will then proceed with sentencing.  Pleading guilty is generally discouraged, as it can make it much more difficult to negotiate a plea bargain deal with prosecutors for probation, or a reduced sentence.

No Contest

Pleading no contest is allowing for the court to sentence you as though you were guilty of the criminal charges at-issue, but does not operate as a formal admission or denial of guilt.  Generally speaking, a no contest plea is entered when you have negotiated a plea bargain deal with prosecutors to minimize or avoid liability.

Arraignment Rights

In Florida, if you have been arrested and booked, you have a right to an attorney, and you must be given proper notice of this right.  If you cannot afford an attorney, then the judge will appoint an attorney to represent you.

Further, you have the right to a reasonable amount of time to consider how you will enter your plea.  As arraignments are generally held within 24 hours of booking, this can lead to quite a time crunch — you will likely want to reschedule the arraignment (or waive it) after consult an attorney.

Contact Skilled Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

If you have been arrested, booked, and held for a crime, or even if you’ve been released from police custody, then you will either have to attend an arraignment where you will be criminally charged, or have your attorney waive the arraignment on your behalf.  We encourage you to get in touch with our experienced Sarasota criminal defense attorneys for further assistance.  Call (941) 404-8909 or submit an online case form through our website to schedule an immediate, confidential consultation.

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