Anytime you are facing criminal charges, you should seek legal representation. Sometimes, a lawyer is unnecessary for the arraignment phase of the process as well. For example, if you are only charged with a misdemeanor and this is your first offense, then an attorney may be unnecessary at this early phase. Also, if you plan on requesting a court-appointed lawyer, then this request is made at the arraignment. However, despite these two specific situations, there are at least three times when you should have an attorney present for your arraignment.
1. Felony Charges
Felony charges almost always warrant the presence of an attorney for all phases of your court appearances. Felony charges practically always involve criminal intent, which means that there is more at stake for you and the prosecutors during your arraignment. Most prosecuting attorneys will want to withhold bail and keep you in jail for the remainder of your trial. A defense attorney can argue against tough recommendations with legal prowess — but can you? Attorneys spend years acquiring the knowledge that makes them useful in situations like arraignments and trials.
2. Bond Arrangements
During an arraignment for a felony charge, bond or bail will be determined. Prosecutors typically push for the maximum or argue against bail. If you have an attorney, then they can argue for lower bail amounts or even release on your own recognizance. However, bail amounts often relate to the offense, the finances of the accused, the charges and whether the defendant is a flight risk. As an experienced legal representative, your lawyer understands when bail amounts are fair. Trust their judgment.
3. Plea Agreements
Another reason for having an attorney before the arraignment is for plea negotiations. Hiring an experienced attorney means that he or she will go to work for you before the trial even begins. They will negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf to see if charges can be knocked down to misdemeanors, or if a guilty plea will result in a lesser sentence. Without an attorney early on, you will likely not have the same flexibility of expertise to negotiate a deal with prosecutors.
While there are times when an attorney is not needed for an arraignment, you should always hire a lawyer or use a public defender when you are facing felony charges. Contact a local and experienced criminal defense lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer in Rockville, MD, to discuss your case and find out if hiring an attorney early is really necessary. Keep in mind that a lot of pretrial work goes into fighting felony charges.
Thanks to the Law Office of Daniel J. Wright for their insight into when to use a lawyer for an arraignment.