The law requires that every person be seen by a judge within 72 hours of arrest. If you are bonded out of jail before the 72 hours expire, this requirement is waived. It is at this hearing that the magistrate judge can consider setting a bond on most cases. The magistrate judge cannot set bond on some types of cases such as sale of methamphetamine and murder. Bond on those cases can only be set by a superior court judge. The defendant may also appoint counsel for those without means to hire one at this stage.
What is an arraignment?
The process of an arraignment is the means by which the state officially informs you of the charges against you. The judge reads the charges in open court. At this stage of the process you can enter a plea of not guilty bench trial or not guilty jury trial. You can also choose to enter a plea of guilty. In some jurisdictions the recommendation is somewhat more lenient but the result is the same, a plea a guilty and the end to your case. Most pro se defendant usually enters a plea at this stage. However, without the advice of a lawyer, there is no reason to enter a plea at this stage because you have not had the opportunity to explore the legal problems that could result in a dismissal of your case or a plea to a lesser charge.
What is calendar call or pre trial?
Calendar call or pretrial is the final step in the process before your trial. This is usually the last point at which you can accept the state's recommendation. In some jurisdictions, if you fail to enter a plea at calendar call the judge will only accept a blind plea and it is always more severe than if you had entered a plea at calendar call. A blind plea means you are entering a plea of guilt without a recommendation from the state. In other words, as you stand before the judge you have no idea what your sentence will be. This is, in most cases, not good for you. It is critical that you thoroughly review the merits of your case with your attorney prior to this date to make sure you want a trial.
What is a bench trial?
Sometimes, a defendant will elect to have a bench trial instead of a jury trial. A bench trial does not have a jury. The judge listens to the facts of the case and makes a decision. A pro se defendant should never have a bench trial. It is a waste of time. It is what we call a slow plea. As an individual representing yourself, you are not familiar with the judge, the prosecutor or the law and it is often a frustrating experience for the defendant. In some cases, an attorney, after reviewing the law and facts, may decide that the case is no clear cut that a judge can only come to one decision or they may have an issue that they want to take to the Court of Appeals. In either event, a pro se defendant should never have a bench trial.
What is a jury trial?
Unlike a bench trial, a jury trial allows ordinary citizens to decide your guilt or innocence. The jury trial is the cornerstone of the criminal justice system. In a misdemeanor case, the jury consists of six people. In a felony case, the jury consists of twelve people. The jury selected to hear your case listens to the facts in the case and the law as provided by the judge and renders a decision. This is the fairest process though it is unpredictable.
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