The arraignment is the first time you go to court in relation to your case. If you have hired an attorney, your attorney may go with you to court. The hearing proceeds in this order:
- All the information concerning your arraignment is noted on your citation, including time, date, and courtroom number. If you do not have a citation call the city (441-7283) or county (441-7321) attorney´s office to get this information.
- Sit down in the courtroom and wait for your name to be called. When your name is called go to the front of the courtroom and stand before the judge.
- The prosecutor will read aloud the charge pending against you. The judge will ask if you understand the possible penalties and if you are prepared to enter a plea at this time.
- You should not plead "guilty" or "no contest" unless you have talked to an attorney. Once you plead "guilty" or "no contest", you cannot change your mind later and ask for a trial. If you plead guilty or no contest, the judge will ask the prosecutor for a factual basis. The prosecutor will read facts supporting the charge from the police report. The judge will ask if you have anything to say about the facts. You may give your version. If the judge accepts the guilty or no contest plea, he or she will usually proceed immediately to sentencing unless the judge wants to order a pre-sentence investigation, in which case a sentencing date will be set about five or six weeks away. If the judge proceeds to sentencing, you will have a chance to speak on your own behalf before the sentence is given.
- If you plead not guilty, the judge will set a date for trial about five weeks away. You have three basic options in terms of obtaining an attorney. The judge will ask if you plan to have an attorney represent you at the trial. If you have hired a private attorney or you intend to hire one, give this information to the judge. If you are charged with a misdemeanor in Lancaster County, a Student Legal Services attorney might represent you. If you are charged with a crime that carries a possible jail sentence and you can´t afford to hire an attorney, you may ask the court to appoint an attorney from the Public Defender´s Office to represent you. Always plead "not guilty" at arraignment unless you have discussed your case with an attorney and you are sure you do not want to contest the charge. You can change your plea to guilty later in the proceedings if you want to and the judge will not penalize you for pleading not guilty at arraignment.