What Is An Arraignment? How Should I Plead?

An arraignment is a hearing in court before a judge in which the charges and the possible penalties are read aloud to you. You will be asked to enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty." If you have not had an opportunity to consult an attorney prior to the arraignment and you wish to do so you should enter a plea of not guilty. It will be possible at a later time to change this plea to guilty or no contest without any additional penalties to you. If you plead "not guilty" at the arraignment, the judge will set a date for trial approximately four weeks from the day of arraignment. Pleading not guilty at the arraignment leaves all your options open until you have more time to decide what you want to do.

If you do not want to contest the charge or talk to an attorney, you can plead "guilty" or "no contest" at the arraignment and the judge will usually sentence you on the spot. If you were involved in an auto accident but you do not want to contest the traffic ticket, always plead "no contest" rather than "guilty."