Following your arrest for charges of white-collar crimes, drug crimes or other offenses, you may have many questions about what happens next. Certainly, your ultimate concern is what your future will look like, but that may depend heavily on what happens in the upcoming days and weeks. After the prosecutor reads the reports of your case from police and investigators, he or she will decide how to charge you. You will then move to the next step: arraignment.
Arraignment is when you hear the formal charges against you, the charges against which you will have to defend yourself at your trial. Understanding the process of arraignment may help you participate more fully in your defense. The arraignment process in every jurisdiction in Oklahoma may vary, but the following is a general idea of what to expect.
What you can expect
Usually within 48 hours of your arrest, you will go to the courthouse for the arraignment process. You may hear your attorney refer to this as your “initial appearance.” If you have been incarcerated up to this time, officers will escort you to the courthouse, or you may see the judge on a closed circuit TV. You have the right to attorney representation, and it is a good idea to have consulted with your legal counsel before the arraignment. Here is what you can expect to happen your arraignment:
- The prosecutor will give you a copy of the police reports and other evidence he or she used to arrive at the charges.
- The judge will read those charges aloud.
- The court will now refer to you as “the defendant.”
- The judge will ask you how you plead to the charges.
Pleading to the charges is something you should not do lightly or without having first consulted with your attorney. If you plead guilty, it is possible the judge may sentence you immediately or send you back to jail until he or she decides on your penalties. Your other choices are to plead not guilty or no contest, also called nolo contendere. No contest is not a guilty plea, but it means you are not fighting the charges, so the court may pass sentence on you.
If you enter a not guilty plea, the judge will set a date for the next hearing. Depending on your situation, you may return to jail or the judge may release you. In either case, you have work to do with your attorney, such as discussing the possibility of a plea bargain or building your defense strategy for trial.