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Do I Need a Lawyer for an Arraignment in Massachusetts?

Posted on July 30, 2021 in

An arraignment is typically the first court appearance required of an individual who is facing criminal charges (the defendant). You may have to attend an arraignment hearing if you get arrested in Massachusetts for driving under the influence, assault charges, or other crimes. You may also be called for an arraignment hearing if you’re summoned by the courts. Although not legally required, having a lawyer represent you during an arraignment can help you understand and defend your rights. 

What Do You Have to Do During an Arraignment?

An arraignment is a hearing before a judge in a courtroom. It is the hearing where you will learn what you are officially being charged with. A court clerk will read the charges against you, and the prosecutor may read a part of a police report. The prosecutor can also ask the judge to set bail during the arraignment. Bail is an amount of money a defendant can give to the court to ensure that he or she will appear at the court date. It allows a defendant to wait for the next hearing outside of jail.

When you arrive at your arraignment hearing, you will be called to stand in front of the judge. The judge will read the charges being brought against you and announce his or her decision regarding bail or the terms of your release. This process should only take a few minutes. Then, you will be expected to enter a plea. There are three different plea options: 

  1. Guilty. Pleading guilty means that you are giving up your right to a criminal trial. If you plead guilty to criminal charges against you, your case will go straight to sentencing.
  2. No contest. Pleading no contest has a similar outcome. No contest means that you are accepting a conviction for the charges against you, but you are not admitting guilt to the crime in question. No contest will also result in a sentencing hearing without a criminal trial.
  3. Not guilty. Pleading not guilty allows you to provide a defense at a later date, during a criminal trial.

The plea that you submit can have a major impact on your case. A clerk will enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf unless you choose to plead otherwise. Note that you can always change your plea later. The arraignment hearing is also where a judge will ask about your legal representation. The judge will ask if you plan on representing yourself or hiring a private attorney. If your income qualifies you for a public defender, an attorney can assign one at the arraignment.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Lawyer for an Arraignment?

You do not legally need an attorney during an arraignment hearing. The arraignment is not your criminal trial. If you do not have an attorney for your arraignment, you will still have the chance to hire one to defend you later. However, there are certain advantages to hiring a lawyer for your arraignment and even before.

If a judge sets bail during an arraignment hearing, it can be helpful to have an attorney. Your attorney can negotiate with the judge during your hearing in an effort to persuade the judge not to hold you on bail or reduce the amount of bail set. A lawyer can also give you advice about which plea to enter based on the facts of your case and your goals.

In some scenarios, a criminal defense lawyer is able to negotiate a dismissal of the charges even before arraignment. This can be extremely beneficial, as it means that your criminal record will remain clear. If this isn’t possible, your attorney can still handle negotiations during your arraignment to argue for the best possible outcome on your behalf. Contact an attorney today.