Following an arrest or criminal citation, an arraignment is a court proceeding where a defendant is formally advised of the charges against him/her and is asked to enter a plea to the charges (e.g. not guilty, guilty, or no contest). Additionally, courts must advise defendants of certain constitutional rights at arraignment, including the right to legal counsel, the right to trial, and the right against self-incrimination. The judge will also set a bail amount and announce dates of future proceedings in the case.
When entering a plea, it is almost always a mistake to say you’re guilty to the charges at arraignment. That’s because once you enter a guilty plea to a charge, you will have a permanent record of conviction for that charge. Furthermore, the judge does not have the power to change the charge to something less serious, often imposing the full sentence. Pleading guilty means that you will never have an opportunity to see if there was a viable defense to your charges in order to obtain a more favorable outcome.
If you want a fighting chance against the charges you face, it is wise to hire a criminal defense attorney or ask for a public defender if you cannot afford one. Keep in mind, public defenders typically have a substantially large caseload and may only have enough time to seek a plea deal, rather than protect your innocence in order to achieve a not guilty verdict.
If you have been arrested for a criminal offense in Kansas or Missouri, request a free consultation with our Kansas City criminal defense lawyers today.