It’s the kind of notice no one ever wants to receive. You’ve been charged with a crime. You’re expected to appear in court. However major or minor the charge happens to be, it’s downright nerve-wracking.
First thing’s first, don’t panic. Breathe. Plenty of people have gotten past criminal charges in their life – after all, just because you’re being charged, doesn’t mean you’ll be found guilty. Before you do anything else, find yourself a good defense attorney. From there, it’s a simple matter of figuring out where you stand.
We can help with that.
There’s A Difference Between A Civil Infraction, A Misdemeanor, and A Felony
Not all crimes are created equal. A civil infraction, for example, is a minor violation – a traffic ticket, a minor drug charge, and so on. While it may still require a court date, at most, you’re probably going to end up with a fine, and maybe some demerits on your driver’s license (depending on where you live, of course).
A misdemeanor also isn’t punishable by jail time. Again, you’re probably just going to wind up having to pay out some money if you lose. Nothing to panic about.
A felony charge is where you should be a little worried. These are crimes punishable under law with jail time, though that time could vary from anywhere between a few months to years. It all depends how serious the charge is, and if the trial goes south, how skilled your attorney is at negotiating a lighter sentence.
How To Prepare For Your Arraignment Date
Generally, a few days after you’ve been charged with a crime, you’ll be brought before a judge for an arraignment – basically, a court date where you’re brought before a judge to talk about the crime you’ve been charged with. To prepare for your court date, you should ensure you take care of yourself in the days leading up to it – get a decent amount of sleep and eat well.
On the day itself, dress up like you would for an important, white-collar job interview. Your goal here is to show respect for the judge and the arraignment process. Try to be a bit early for your arraignment, and under no circumstances show up late.
Arraignments can typically take several hours, so you should plan to be at the court for a while.
For felonies, the judge may also set bail – the amount you must pay to get yourself out of prison and demonstrate that you’re committed to returning for the trial. Bail bondsmen are often on-hand to pay a large portion of higher bails, and your attorney can fight for a lower bail amount or ask for a release on personal recognizance.
You Should Probably Plead “Not Guilty” At The Arraignment
Unless you’re angling for punishment, it’s usually best to plead “not guilty” at your arraignment hearing. The reason for this is simple: it gives your attorney more time to review the charges against you and consider possible defense. And the more time they have, the stronger your case.
Bormaster Law Can Help
Bormaster Law has a great deal of experience dealing with criminal trials. Contact us, and we’ll set you up with a free consultation where we review your case and advise you on next steps. We’ll do everything in our power to ensure things go the way you hope – you deserve no less.