Being arrested for DUI in Florida is an unsettling experience that can have severe negative consequences in your life even if you are never convicted of the charges against you. At such a time it is important to seek strong representation by a Florida DUI defense attorney. Upon arrest, you can expect a general sequence of events. The first time you appear before a judge is during your arraignment.
What is an Arraignment in Florida?
An arraignment, or initial appearance, is a pretrial proceeding that is a formality by the U.S. Court System. It is an opportunity for you, the defendant, to listen to the charges against you and to enter a plea. It is also the time for the judge to decide whether or not to set bail, and if so, how much.
This is the first time you step into a courtroom upon your arrest. You sit in a courtroom filled with others who are also there for arraignment and wait until your name is called, at which point you approach the bench. It is also possible to have your Florida criminal defense attorney attend on your behalf.
During an arraignment, the defendant has the opportunity to plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Each of these pleas has different meanings and results.
- Guilty: If you plead guilty, you admit that you committed the acts that constitute the crime charges.
- Not guilty: You deny committing the acts, or you admit to committing the acts but the acts do not constitute the crime charges, or you admit to committing the acts but were fully justified. A court date will be set for future proceedings before which you must craft a defense.
- No contest: You neither admit nor deny the charges against you; you refuse to challenge the charges against you. This is similar to a guilty plea in that both pleas result in a sentencing hearing during which a judge will decide how much punishment you deserve.
As per Florida law, you can waive your appearance at an arraignment by submitting a not guilty plea in writing in advance through your defense attorney. Should you choose to appear at your arraignment, you should observe a professional code of conduct.
Proper Arraignment Conduct
To make the most out of an arraignment, you must be conscious of your attitude and overall demeanor when you find yourself in a court environment. Arriving early, well-groomed, and maintaining a somber disposition are all things you can do that work in your favor.
Keep the following tips in mind to make a good impression on the prosecuting attorney, the probation officer, and the judge:
- Make all arrangements possible to arrive 30 minutes early.
- Dress professionally, as there is no second chance to make a strong first impression.
- Show respect for the court and your criminal case at all times.
- Maintain a sense of innocence at all times.
What Isn’t an Arraignment?
An arraignment is not a trial. Although you appear in court in front of a judge, this is not the time to call witnesses or hear evidence. The police officer who arrested you will likely not make an appearance, yet this doesn’t mean your case can be dismissed. You may not even have to speak at your arraignment with a lawyer present. A judge will instead address the prosecutor and your defense attorney before deciding whether to post bail.
You should always have a criminal defense attorney on your side before the time of the arraignment. An arraignment occurs within 24 hours of arrest and is your only chance to enter a plea. Attorney Brian Gabriel can help you prepare for this significant event with over 30 years of experience defending the criminally accused. Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation.