When criminal charges are levied against you in Harris County, TX, you may need to appear in court faster than expected. This is called the arraignment, and it’s your first court date. This is where you’ll hear the charges against you and enter a guilty or not guilty plea.
The arraignment process can feel overwhelming, and it’s best to know what to expect and how to conduct yourself. If you have questions or need a defense lawyer for an arraignment hearing in Harris, County, Texas, contact attorney Ned Barnett for a free consultation.
What Is the Arraignment?
An arraignment hearing in Texas is when a defendant is called before the court to hear and enter a plea to the crimes the state has accused them of committing.
When Do Arraignments Happen?
An arraignment happens in all felony cases, indictments, and all misdemeanor cases punishable by imprisonment. Minor infractions, like speeding, do not require an arraignment.
Are People Released Before Arraignment?
This depends; if you have been arrested multiple times in the past or the judge feels that you are a danger to the community and/or a flight risk, they may order you to remain in jail.
Where Do Arraignments Happen?
Arraignments happen at the local Harris County Court in the proximity of where you were arrested and charged. If you were arrested for a crime that happened somewhere else, you would be arraigned locally but then transferred to face trial.
Where to Look for Arraignment Info for Your Case
Any information about your arraignment can be found in your arrest paperwork, on the local court website, and by calling the courthouse.
You Should Have a Lawyer at Your Arraignment
When you are arrested, your Miranda Rights say, “Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.” Those words are not taken lightly within our justice system, and if you slip up once, a good prosecutor will take what you said and try to convince everyone of your guilt.
A defense attorney will help you avoid these mistakes. They will coach you through the entire process and stop you from saying anything incriminating.
How to Get a Lawyer Before Your Arraignment
When you are arrested, say nothing, and ask for an attorney. The officers will ask if you have one in mind and allow you to contact them.
If you do not or cannot afford one, you can submit an Affidavit of Indigence to the Harris County Court and get a public defender to represent you.
Can You Speak to a Lawyer Before Arraignment?
Yes, the attorney will meet you before your charges are read in court. Generally, they will enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf unless you want to do otherwise.
What to Expect at Arraignment
You will stand before the judge during an arraignment as they read your charges from the court docket. The judge will then ask you to plea before they set or deny your bond. You might be ordered back to jail depending on whether you are seen as dangerous to others or a flight risk.
Can Charges Be Dismissed at Arraignment?
Rarely, but it can happen if the judge feels a discrepancy in your arrest. Or if the prosecutor decides that keeping a specific charge will be a stretch.
Arraignment Court Rules
When in court, only talk when the judge speaks to you. Maintain a professional demeanor and avoid being rude. You are at the court’s mercy, so you will want to show humility.
Dressing for Arraignment
Wear nice, clean, pressed clothing, and be appropriately groomed. Your defense attorney can help you get a suit and the appropriate tools to groom yourself.
They can utilize their network of resources to connect you with organizations, like the Greater Houston Salvation Army, which can help you prepare for your first appearance in court.
Entering a Plea and Outcomes
After the charges are read, you can enter your guilty or not guilty plea. Generally, your lawyer will enter your plea for you to give the defense time to research the case. If you plead guilty, your case will end and go into the sentencing phase.
Returning to Jail/Conditions of Release
After your arrangement, the judge may again order you to return to prison. Or they might release you under conditions of release, meaning you can only go to certain places or do certain things.
Bail is the amount the court sets to ensure a defendant returns to court. The amount or requirement to bail vary based on the detail of your case, prior criminal history, and any potential threat to the public, but your defense attorney can argue to have your bail reduced if they feel it is unfair.
You can either pay the amount in full or contact a bondsman to secure the amount you need.
After Your Arraignment & What’s Next?
After your arraignment, your trial date will be set, giving the prosecution and defense time to gather the needed evidence.
At trial, you will have the opportunity to see and hear the prosecution’s evidence. You may present witnesses and evidence and testify on your behalf. After all the evidence is presented, the prosecutor, you, or your lawyer will have the right to make a brief argument on your behalf. After these arguments, the Court will determine your guilt based on the evidence and legal standard.
Call a Houston Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Needing to appear at arraignment can be scary, depending on how the hearing goes.
Attorney Ned Barnett will ensure you get the protection you deserve. To speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case for free, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett at (713) 222-6767.