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What Happens at My Arraignment for Drug Charges?

At an arraignment, the judge reads the charges against you, and you enter a guilty or not guilty plea; arraignments are also a deadline for filing pretrial motions.

In a criminal case, arraignment is the first court hearing in your criminal case. It is the starting point for preparing for your trial if you decide to plead not guilty. In keeping with a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, arraignments tend to happen very soon after the initial arrest. They are often less than a week after the arrest, but sometimes they are a few weeks later if you need time to find a criminal defense lawyer. From the perspective of a screenwriter, an arraignment would make a good opening scene for a movie about a criminal case. In real life, though, what happens before your arraignment affects the outcome of your case as much as what happens during and after. If you got arrested on drug charges, your arraignment is coming soon, so the time is now to contact an Atlanta drug crimes defense lawyer.

The Rationale Behind Arraignments

It would be manifestly unjust to ask people to defend themselves against criminal charges if they could only find out what crimes they were being accused of once the trial had begun. The purpose of an arraignment is so that the state can be transparent with you about the accusations against you so that you have a fair chance to prepare a defense. Arraignments date back to a time when only a small percentage of the population knew how to read; therefore, having a judge read the charges out loud was the only way that defendants could find out what they were being accused of doing.

What are Your Options for Entering a Plea?

Your choices are to plead guilty or not guilty at your arraignment. In most cases, you and your lawyer will have already discussed which plea you will enter. If you plead guilty, the court will schedule a sentencing hearing, but if you plead not guilty, both sides will prepare for a trial. If you do not enter a plea or do not attend your arraignment, the court will consider this a not-guilty plea, and the case will proceed to trial as if you had pleaded not guilty.

The Arraignment as a Deadline in Your Case

In addition to being a time for entering a plea, the arraignment is also a deadline for your lawyer to enter certain pretrial motions. One of these is a demurrer, which the textbook Foundations of Law defines as a “So what?” motion. In a demurrer, you are saying that even if all of the allegations in the indictment are true, this still does not mean that you are guilty of a crime. For example, your lawyer might file a demurrer if you got arrested for drug possession with intent to distribute because, when police pulled you over for a minor traffic violation, they found a bottle of Adderall and an oversized wallet full of cash in your car. The demurrer might say that the court should dismiss your case because the Adderall had been prescribed to you, and the wallet of cash was there because you were on your way to the bank after finishing your shift at work to drop off the day’s cash register takings.

Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer can help you decide about a plea and pretrial motions before your arraignment. Contact the defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam in Atlanta, Georgia, about criminal defense cases.