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In all felony prosecutions and in all Class A and B misdemeanor prosecutions, a court appearance called an arraignment is held. The arraignment occurs at some point after the defendant has been served with an indictment or information. An arraignment can be waived if the defense attorney thinks it is unnecessary.
What to Expect
At the arraignment, the court makes sure that the defendant has received the charging document. If the defendant is not yet represented by a lawyer, the court will inquire about the defendant’s plan to obtain representation. The court might delay the arraignment, if necessary, to give the defendant more time to arrange for legal representation.
The primary purpose of the arraignment is for the defendant to enter a plea. In most cases, the defendant will enter a plea of “not guilty.” Even if the defendant believes that he or she is guilty, is makes sense to plead “not guilty” so that the defendant’s lawyer had time to learn more about the facts of the case and decide how best to proceed.
Entering a “not guilty” plea merely preserves all rights of the accused, including the right to a trial. The plea can always be changed later, after the defendant’s attorney has had a chance to negotiate with the prosecutor to obtain a reasonable outcome. If the arraignment is waived, a plea of not guilty is entered automatically.
After the arraignment, your lawyer may file a number of motions with the court. A motion is a request for the court to enter an order. Some motions address the evidence that can be used against you at trial. If the police violated your rights when you were detained, searched or questioned, a motion to suppress evidence might be filed asking the court to “throw out” any evidence that was obtained illegally.
For instance, a suppression motion might be filed if the police found drugs in your car after stopping your car for no reason, or if the police searched your home without a warrant and without consent.
A variety of other motions might be filed before the trial. Some motions might seek dismissal of certain charges. Other motions might ask the court to separate your trial from the trial of other defendants. Some motions might relate to discovery of the evidence that will be used against you.
Motions are often an important part of the defense strategy in a drug prosecution. Even if you do not prevail when you bring motions, adverse decisions can provide you with fruitful grounds to raise on appeal. Although every case is different, some cases can be won by filing appropriate motions.