Arraignment Process in Hall County
An arraignment is a hearing in open court where a judge formally reads the charge or charges to a defendant and asks the defendant how they plead.
While the precise timing of arraignment varies, it usually needs to occur within a reasonable time of the defendant being arrested and charged. Arraigning the defendant at an early stage is supposed to ensure that their case is progressing and they're not spending more time in custody than necessary.
In addition to reading the charges and taking the defendant's plea, a court may also read out the substance of the charges, confirm that the defendant understands them, and inform the defendant of their relevant constitutional rights, such as their right to a court-appointed lawyer.
In Hall County, most every person "waives" a formal reading of the charges and enters a plea by circling either "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" on the face of the accusation or indictment.
If you or a loved one has been arrested, you need a skilled criminal defense lawyer who practices in Hall County, Georgia. We have been practicing almost exclusively in Hall County since 2005. Fill out a contact form or call us at (770) 249-4405 to schedule a free consultation to learn more.
Arraignment versus Indictment in Hall County
An arraignment is different from an indictment. While an arraignment is an opportunity for a defendant to hear the charges against them and enter a plea, an indictment is a legal document formally charging a defendant with a crime.
A defendant can be charged by law enforcement authorities (through a warrant) or by an indictment (issued only by a Hall County Grand Jury) or issued by a prosecutor (this is called an "accusation"). Once a defendant has been formally charged, their matter proceeds to an arraignment hearing.
Whether a defendant can be charged by an accusation or an indictment depends on the specific charge. All misdemeanors can be charged by an accusation. Many, but not all, felonies must be charged by a grand jury indictment.
Understanding Pleas at an Arraignment in Georgia
When a judge asks a defendant how they plead to a charge during an arraignment hearing, a defendant can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest or "nolo contendere".
A guilty plea indicates the defendant accepts the charges and allegations. By entering a guilty plea, the matter will proceed to sentence either immediately after the arraignment or at a later date.
A not guilty plea indicates the defendant is contesting the allegations and the matter will proceed to a trial at a later date.
A no contest plea (or "nolo contdere" plea) indicates the defendant is accepting a conviction for the charge but not admitting guilt. In Georgia, a nolo plea "shall not be used against the defendant in any other court or proceedings as an admission of guilt or otherwise or for any purpose; and the plea shall not be deemed a plea of guilty for the purpose of effecting any civil disqualification of the defendant to hold public office, to vote, to serve upon any jury, or any other civil disqualification imposed upon a person convicted of any offense under the laws of this state. The plea shall be deemed and held to put the defendant in jeopardy within the meaning of Article I, Section I, Paragraph XVIII of the Constitution of this state after sentence has been imposed." See OCGA 17-7-95(c).
Do You Need a Hall County Criminal Defense Lawyer for an Arraignment in Georgia ?
You're not always legally required to have a lawyer represent you at an arraignment hearing. However, it's worthwhile speaking to an attorney before your arraignment so you can obtain advice relevant to your case and the options available to you. Engaging an attorney at this early stage also allows them to start preparing for your trial.
Contact Brett Willis Law today to schedule a free consultation to learn more.