What is Arraignment in Georgia?
In Georgia, the term arraignment refers to a hearing at which the prosecution announces the charges it has filed against the defendant and the defendant responds by pleading guilty or not guilty. Arraignment is also referred to as an “initial hearing” or “initial appearance.” It is the start of the criminal prosecution in your case. Many times it occurs only a couple of days after a person is arrested, but it can be scheduled for several weeks later.
What Happens at Arraignment?
There is usually only one arraignment for State and Superior Court cases. Sometimes people are allowed a continuance in order to hire an attorney. During this time, judges may force a person to enter a not guilty plea to move the case on to the next stage. However, in Municipal Court, there can be multiple arraignments before a case is resolved. The reason for this is to give the State's attorney (solicitor) time to respond to discovery requests and to keep the lines of negotiation open. Once the case comes to a standstill, the accused must enter a plea whether it is guilty, not guilty, or a negotiated plea.
The reason arraignment is so important has to do with the filing of motions. The accused is required to file all motions either before or at arraignment. These motions protect your rights and can make the entire difference in your case. That is why it is crucial to hire a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney before your arraignment. If you appear at arraignment unrepresented, you may waive your right to file the motions in your case that could potentially mean the difference between your acquittal and conviction.
Do I have to Go?
Arraignment was developed decades ago when many people were illiterate and needed to have their charges read aloud. Because this is not the case anymore, arraignment is mostly unnecessary and antiquated. People that request a formal arraignment generally do not understand the process.
You have the right to attend your arraignment and hear all of the charges against you. Although few people go through this formal arraignment process, it is your right if you choose so. During this time, you can either state your plea, (guilty or not guilty) or not say anything and the judge will enter a not guilty plea in the record on your behalf. Your failure to enter a plea does not stop the criminal process.
Do I Need an Attorney for Arraignment?
As stated previously, hiring a Georgia Lawyer before arraignment will make all the difference in your case. They will file all the necessary motions to preserve your rights and also “waive arraignment.” This means that instead of appearing in person, your Criminal Defense Lawyer will file all of the correct motions prior to the actual court date including a plea of “not guilty” in writing.
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