What is the Difference Between an Initial Appearance and an Arraignment?
Understanding the manner in which a criminal case runs in Arizona can be confusing to anyone unfamiliar with the process. Rideout Law Group provides a general outline, along with descriptions, of a typical criminal case in Arizona here. Even so, some steps can seem so similar that they require a deeper explanation to really understand.
Often, individuals may not understand the difference between an initial appearance and an arraignment or may even think that they are interchangeable terms. While it is possible for them to occur in one simultaneous sitting, especially for misdemeanor offenses, they are two separate and unique events.
Anyone arrested (“booked”) for an alleged crime is required to be seen in front of a judge within 24 hours after their booking. This meeting is called an initial appearance (IA), and it will be the first time the arrested individual will be referred to as a “defendant.” At an initial appearance, the defendant will:
- Hear the allegations against them.
- Be advised of their right to an attorney, as most defendants will not yet have had the chance to retain one by this point, as well as their right to remain silent.
- Be informed of their release conditions. Those accused of violent or serious crimes, or those who are flight risks, will have bond set, while those accused of lesser offenses may be released on their own recognizance (a written promise to appear for their next hearing). Learn about the right to release here.
- Have dates set for their status conference and preliminary hearing.
After an initial appearance, the defendant goes through a status conference and preliminary hearing or grand jury process to determine if there is sufficient evidence against them to move forward with a criminal case. If an indictment or direct complaint results, the next step is an arraignment. At an arraignment, the defendant will:
- Hear the formal charges being held against them.
- Be advised of their right to an attorney or to be appointed a public defender.
- Enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest, with “not guilty” being the most common plea entered.
- Have dates set for the pretrial conference and trial.
- Be informed of their release conditions. Those accused of violent or serious crimes, or those who are flight risks, will have bond set, while those accused of lesser offenses may be released on their own recognizance (a written promise to appear for their next hearing).
What do the pleas mean?
Plea of Guilty- A defendant pleading guilty is admitting to all the charges against them. A guilty plea will send a defendant straight to sentencing. Defense attorneys typically do not recommend pleading guilty at an arraignment unless a very favorable plea agreement has been offered that requires it.
Plea of Not Guilty- Most commonly heard at the arraignment stage, pleading not guilty means the defendant is claiming to not have committed the charges being held against them. Entering this plea requires the State to prove the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It also allows the defense attorney time to begin their investigation into the evidence to prepare for trial or to begin negotiating a favorable plea agreement.
In some instances, a judge may automatically enter a plea of not guilty on behalf of the defendant. This is not a reason to be concerned. In doing so, the judge is actually protecting the due process rights of the defendant and allowing them the opportunity to confer with their attorney regarding the case.
Plea of No Contest (Nolo Contendere)- When a defendant pleads no contest, they are neither accepting guilt nor disputing the alleged facts of the crime. A no contest plea will be handled the same as a guilty plea and will send a defendant straight to sentencing. The benefit of a no contest plea is that it prevents the defendant from being held liable in any associated civil case.
RIDEOUT LAW GROUP
With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.
Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:
- charges that are reduced or dropped.
- top experts reviewing your case.
- aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
- fines or probation in lieu of jail time.
At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.
Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.