When a person has been arrested for a violation of the California Penal or Vehicle Code, they will be asked to appear before the Judge on set date. That date is the date of their arraignment. The arraignment is when a person enters a plea with the Judge. They may plea guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
At the arraignment the Prosecutor will also give you an offer. The offer is a plea bargain that will give you the potential sentence they can offer you, if you agree to plead guilty and not try the case. It is important to note that it is your constitutional right to have a trial, where the evidence may be presented and the ultimate verdict determined by a jury of your peers.
If you choose to take the offer given by the Prosecutor and plead guilty, you are waiving your right to a trial and to be heard. This is a very important decision and must be understood completely before any kind of offer is accepted.
There are many things to consider; what are the chances of winning at trial? Is it in my best interest to enter a plea? Will I get a better offer if I set it for Trial? Will I get jail time if I don’t plead guilty? What is a good offer?
Many people feel overwhelmed by all the things to consider, and coupled with the stress of appearing before the Judge and asked to make a decision, they feel extremely confused. Fortunately, you can have an experienced Criminal Defense lawyer appear on your behalf at your arraignment so that you do not have to take the day off work, and appear in Court.
Having an attorney appear on your behalf causes some people anxiety as well. They are worried about what will happen in Court and what plea the attorney will take on their behalf. It is important to note that a criminal defense attorney is experienced and handles cases like yours every day. The Judge will know the attorney and the attorney will be very familiar with courtroom procedure. Additionally, the attorney will never accept a plea on your behalf without having discussed it with you first.
In most cases the attorney will make an appearance on your behalf and ask the Prosecutor what the offer is on the table. They will then ask the Judge for a 30 day continuance so that they can discuss in depth with you your options and whether the offer itself is a good one to accept. You will get 30 days to think about the offer, and weigh out the different options you have discussed with your Criminal Defense attorney and inform him or her of your final decision. After having confirmed that you would like to accept the plea, or set the case for trial, the attorney will appear on your behalf a second time and enter a plea.
It is overwhelming to appear in the Court the first time and even more stressful to quickly consider all options given to you and make a decision. Consult an expert in the field and give yourself time to think about the options. Once you enter a plea, you are waiving several constitutional rights, so make sure your decision is the right one.