Arraignment Process in North Louisiana
An arraignment is a hearing in open court where a judge formally reads the charge or charges to a defendant and asks the defendant how they plead. According to the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure Article 701 persons being held (in jail) must have a bill of information (alleging charges) filed within a certain window of time based on the charges they are facing. In the case of a misdemeanor 30 days (effective January 1, 2022), a felony 60 days, and a felony which may carry a sentence of capital punishment or life in prison 120 days.
If you are on bond and are awaiting charges to be filed, the prosecution has 90 days in the case of a misdemeanor and 150 days in the case of a felony in which to file a bill of information.
The specific procedures and rules for arraignment vary between jurisdictions. In addition to reading the charges and taking the defendant's plea, a court may also read out the substance of the charges, confirm that the defendant understands them, and inform the defendant of their relevant constitutional rights, such as their right to a court-appointed lawyer.
The judge may also decide on bail and list the later court hearings for the matter, including a sentencing hearing, pretrial conferences, or a trial. If you or a loved one has been arrested, you need the criminal defense of Lawrence Law Firm. Fill out a contact form or call us at 318.232.4000 to schedule a Free Consultation to learn more.
Arraignment vs. Indictment in North Louisiana
An arraignment is different from an indictment. While an arraignment is an opportunity for a defendant to hear the charges against them and enter a plea, an indictment is a legal document formally charging a defendant with a crime. A defendant can be charged by law enforcement authorities or by an indictment issued by a legal authority, such as a prosecutor. Once a defendant has been charged, the matter proceeds to an arraignment hearing. Whether a defendant can be charged by law enforcement or an indictment depends on the specific charge and relevant laws of the jurisdiction. In some states, a grand jury must issue an indictment. A grand jury is a group of impartial, randomly selected citizens who hear from the prosecution and witnesses before deciding whether there is enough evidence for the defendant to be charged.
Understanding Pleas at an Arraignment in Louisiana
When a judge asks a defendant how they plead to a charge during an arraignment hearing, a defendant can enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
A guilty plea indicates the defendant accepts the charges and allegations. By entering a guilty plea, the matter will proceed to sentence either immediately after the arraignment or at a later date.
A not guilty plea indicates the defendant is contesting the allegations and the matter reserves their right to proceed to a trial at a later date.
A no-contest plea indicates the defendant is accepting a conviction for the charge but not admitting guilt. Like a guilty plea, the matter will proceed to sentence either immediately after arraignment or at a later date.
Do You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer for an Arraignment in Louisiana?
You're not always legally required to have a lawyer represent you at an arraignment hearing. However, it's worthwhile speaking to an attorney before your arraignment so you can obtain advice relevant to your case and the options available to you. Engaging an attorney at this early stage also allows them to start preparing for your trial.
Some states allow you to waive arraignment in certain circumstances if you have an attorney. Where this applies, your attorney can liaise with the prosecution and court so you do not need to personally attend the arraignment. Contact Lawrence Law Firm today to schedule a Free Consultation to learn more.
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