Do I need an attorney for an arraignment for an assalt charge? If this goes to trial, will I have right to a free attorney?

Asked almost 5 years ago - Ann Arbor, MI

I am being arraigned on an assault and battery charge for which I did not do. The woman who filed charges is the tenant above my girlfriend and me. She has been harassing us since she moved in 4 months ago. She claimed I shoved her, when I made no contact with her at all. It is her word against mine. I am innocent, but am afraid without representation, I will be wrongly charged.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Scott Douglas Moore

    Contributor Level 8

    Answered . You do have the right to counsel at the arraignment, the first court appearance for a misdemeanor charge. The court is required to appoint counsel if you are indigent (unable to pay), and there is a likelihood that you would be jailed if found guilty.

    The defendant is advised of the charge, the maximum penalty if convicted. More importantly, the defendant is informed of his constitutional rights to a jury or bench trial, appointed attorney, presumption of innocence, and so on.

    After this advice of rights, the defendant will be given a chance to enter a plea to the charge: plead guilty, plead not guilty, or stand mute (that is, remain silent, which is treated by the court as if the defendant pled not guilty). If the defendant stands mute or pleads not guilty, the case will be scheduled for a Pretrial Conference.

    Because the conditions and amount of bond are determined by the judge at this time, it is advisable to have lawyer present to speak to that issue. In some cases --- generally based on the nature of the charge --- the court imposes conditions on the bond, such as no contact with the victim. Bond is set in almost every case, but it is up to the defendant's own resources to post the bail money, which allows him to be released.
    This hearing is not the time to discuss or argue the case. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The pretrial conference, in most Michigan courts, will be your first opportunity to present your side of the story. Of course, it would be helpful to have an experienced attorney on your side.

    (Sources: Michigan Court Rules, State Court Administrative Office, Prosecuting Attorneys Association Michigan.)

  2. Scott Douglas Moore

    Contributor Level 8

    Answered . You do have the right to counsel at the arraignment, the first court appearance for a misdemeanor charge. The court is required to appoint counsel if you are indigent (unable to pay), and there is a likelihood that you would be jailed if found guilty.

    The defendant is advised of the charge, the maximum penalty if convicted. More importantly, the defendant is informed of his constitutional rights to a jury or bench trial, appointed attorney, presumption of innocence, and so on.

    After this advice of rights, the defendant will be given a chance to enter a plea to the charge: plead guilty, plead not guilty, or stand mute (that is, remain silent, which is treated by the court as if the defendant pled not guilty). If the defendant stands mute or pleads not guilty, the case will be scheduled for a Pretrial Conference.

    Because the conditions and amount of bond are determined by the judge at this time, it is advisable to have lawyer present to speak to that issue. In some cases --- generally based on the nature of the charge --- the court imposes conditions on the bond, such as no contact with the victim. Bond is set in almost every case, but it is up to the defendant's own resources to post the bail money, which allows him to be released.
    This hearing is not the time to discuss or argue the case. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The pretrial conference, in most Michigan courts, will be your first opportunity to present your side of the story. Of course, it would be helpful to have an experienced attorney on your side.

  3. Donalda Jean Gillies

    Contributor Level 14

    Answered . If you are indigent (poor) and cannot afford to hire an attorney, you may be entitled to assigned counsel. There are typically financial guidelines which are applied; these may vary from state to state, or even within states. If you have a job, you may need to hire an attorney. You may be able to get referrals from the local bar association or perhaps you could find a local criminal defense attorney here. There are a number of legal guides posted on Avvo on how to find the right lawyer for you.

    If you are planning on fighting the case, then you definitely need an attorney. Even if you are willing to consider a deal, an knowledgeable local attorney can help get you the best possible deal. Be aware that fighting a case takes time. Be sure to make every court date.

    Please do not post further particulars on your pending matter on this public forum. Anything you say here could be traced back to you and used against you. Only discuss your case with your attorney.

    DISCLAIMER I do not practice law in your State. This answer is provided solely for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or constitute attorney advertising.

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