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Can Charges Be Dropped At An Arraignment Hearing? (How To Avoid Jail)

Can Charges Be Dropped At An Arraignment Hearing - Can Charges Be Changed After Arraignment - What Happens At An Arraignment Hearing - What Is An Arraignment Hearing

Can charges be dropped at an arraignment hearing?

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • what happens at hearings for misdemeanor and felony charges
  • if the charges can get dropped
  • why the charges would get dropped
  • can your lawyer go on your behalf
  • does an arraignment hearing mean you’re going to jail

Let’s dig in.

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Arraignment Hearings And What Happens At Them

This section covers:

  • what an arraignment hearing is
  • what happens at an arraignment hearing
  • how felony and misdemeanor hearings differ

What Is An Arraignment Hearing?

An arraignment hearing is a criminal court proceeding.

It’s where the person accused of a crime appears before a judge.

The judge will read the charges from the criminal case to the defendant.

They will then ask the defendant how they plead to the charges (guilty or not guilty).

The defendant can choose to:

  • plead guilty
  • plead not guilty
  • plead no contest

After the plea is entered, the judge will set your court date for your preliminary hearing.

At the preliminary hearing, a judge decides if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

Here is where they will decide if you’ll have a bench trial or a jury trial.

Read More: What Happens If Charges Are Dropped Before Court

The Roles Of An Arraignment Hearing

There are three main roles in an arraignment hearing:

  • the prosecutor
  • the criminal defense lawyer
  • the judge

An arraignment hearing is where the prosecutor:

  • presents evidence to the court that supports the charges
  • explains why bail or other conditions of release should or should not be granted
  • makes a recommendation to the court on how to proceed with the case
  • questions any witnesses that may be present
  • makes objections to any evidence presented by the defense attorney
  • makes legal arguments about why the defendant should be found guilty or not guilty
  • requests a specific sentence for the defendant if the defendant is found guilty

After the prosecutor presents all of this, your criminal defense attorney will:

  • advise you on your legal options and the potential consequences of their plea
  • negotiate with the prosecution to reach a plea agreement
  • challenge the prosecution’s evidence, if necessary
  • make a bail argument for you
  • make legal arguments for your case
  • represent you before the judge and the prosecutor
  • file any necessary paperwork or motions
  • arrange for witnesses to appear if needed

At the arraignment hearing, the judge will:

  • read the charges against the defendant
  • ask the defendant to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty
  • set bail and/or imposes other restrictions on the defendant
  • decide whether to accept or reject a plea agreement
  • set dates for further hearings
  • make decisions regarding the release of the defendant (i.e., setting bond)
  • order the defendant to appear in court on certain dates
  • order the defendant to refrain from certain activities while out on bail

What Happens At An Arraignment Hearing For A Misdemeanor?

At an arraignment hearing for a misdemeanor, a judge will decide how to proceed with the case.

The defendant will get asked to enter a:

  • plea of guilty
  • plea of not guilty
  • plea of no contest

The judge will then decide whether to:

  • dismiss the charge
  • reduce the charge
  • proceed with the trial

The judge may also set bail or release the defendant on their own recognizance.

The defendant may have to appear at a later court date for a trial or sentencing.

This depends on the plea and the judge’s decision.

What Happens At An Arraignment Hearing For A Felony?

At an arraignment hearing for a felony, a judge decides whether to charge you with a crime.

You will receive a copy of the charge and enter a:

The court will also set your bail amount and the date for the next hearing.

You may get released on bail or held in jail until the next hearing.

At the next hearing, the court will decide whether to proceed with the trial or dismiss the case.

What Happens After An Arraignment Hearing?

After the arraignment hearing, the judge will either accept or deny the plea.

If the plea deal is accepted, the judge will move forward with sentencing.

For example, the judge may order:

  • probation
  • community service
  • other forms of alternative sentencing (i.e., community service, anger management, etc.)

If the plea is denied, the defendant will go to trial.

If the defendant is found guilty at trial, the judge will then sentence the defendant.

This sentencing could include:

  • jail time
  • fines
  • restitution

The defendant may be able to appeal the conviction and sentence.

Making an appeal involves filing an appeal with a higher court (i.e., Supreme Court).

They will review the case and make a decision.

If the defendant is found not guilty, the case is over and the defendant is free to go.

The court system will also close the case.

Can Charges Be Dropped At An Arraignment Hearing?

Yes, charges can be dropped at an arraignment hearing.

At an arraignment hearing, the prosecutor may decide to drop the charges.

They will do this if they don’t have enough evidence to proceed with the case.

Or if the defendant pleads guilty or enters a plea bargain to a lesser offense.

However, the prosecutor is the only one who can decide to drop the charges.

It may be in your best interest to accept a plea deal.

Take a plea deal instead of having the charges dropped if the plea deal offers:

  • a lesser sentence
  • fewer or no fines
  • the dismissal of other charges

Pretrial Negotiation

Pretrial negotiation is a way for people to settle a case without going to court.

These get used for criminal cases and happen before the trial. This includes:

  • plea bargaining
  • trying to get the charges dropped or reduced
  • other types of negotiation

It is important for the defendant to know the consequences of any agreement they make.

Like they might be getting a harsher punishment than if they went to court.

They should also know they have a right to:

  • a criminal defense lawyer
  • a trial by jury

Prosecutor’s Discretion

At an arraignment hearing, the prosecutor has the discretion to drop charges.

They can drop the charges if:

  • they are not satisfied with the evidence
  • pursuing the criminal case is not in the public’s best interest

Other things that are at the prosecutor’s discretion are:

  • reducing the severity of the criminal charges
  • offering a plea deal to the defendant

For example, they can reduce murder charges down to manslaughter charges.

The prosecutors are always guided by the penal codes in their jurisdiction.

The prosecutor is using their discretion to make a decision that is in the best interest:

  • of the accused
  • of the public at large

The prosecutor’s discretion ensures justice gets served in each case.

Plea Agreements

A plea agreement is a formal agreement made between:

  • a prosecutor
  • a defendant

It’s when the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a criminal charge. And, in exchange, they get:

  • a reduced sentence
  • their charges dropped

Plea agreements can be used at an arraignment hearing to resolve a case without needing a trial.

This turns a long, drawn-out court process into a speedy trial for you.

For example, a prosecutor may agree to drop a charge of Grand Theft.

They’d exchange Grand Theft if the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge of Petty Theft.

In both of these examples, the plea agreement is used to reduce the severity of the charge.

This allows them to reach a resolution without the need for a trial.

Can Charges Be Changed After Arraignment?

Yes, charges can be changed after arraignment.

Prosecutors can decide to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor after arraignment.

This happens in one scenario.

When the prosecutor believes that a conviction on the more serious charge is unlikely.

In such a case, the defendant may be asked to enter a plea on the lesser charge.

In exchange, they would get a dismissal of the more serious charge.

The defendant’s attorney can also negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charges:

  • reduced to lesser sentences
  • dropped completely

Your criminal defense lawyer will make a plea bargain that:

  • agrees to a lesser charge
  • dismisses a more serious charge

The parties that can change charges after an arraignment hearing are:

  • the prosecutor, who has the authority to drop or reduce charges
  • the court, if there is not enough evidence or reasonable doubt

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Our criminal defense lawyers can tell you if:

  • there’s a good plea deal you might be able to take
  • you should not submit a guilty plea
  • there’s a chance to get the charges dropped

This can keep charges off your criminal records.

They will need to research:

  • the arrest report and the formal charges
  • whether your constitutional rights have been violated
  • if law enforcement had probable cause to arrest you

If you can’t afford an attorney, ask for a public defender.

FAQs About Dropping Charges At An Arraignment Hearing

Here are common questions we get about this topic.

Can My Lawyer Go To My Arraignment Hearing For Me?

No, you have to show up to your arraignment hearing.

Your criminal defense attorney should be there with you, though.

They will be able to provide you with:

  • legal advice
  • representation during your hearing

Does An Arraignment Mean You’re Going To Jail?

No, an arraignment does not mean you’re going to jail.

An arraignment is a court hearing where a defendant is informed of the charges against them.

And they get asked to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

Depending on the plea, the defendant may then:

  • be released on bail
  • held in jail until the next court hearing

Getting Your Charges Dropped At An Arraignment Hearing

If you are facing a criminal conviction, fill out the form on this page.

Our criminal defense attorneys have the experience you need to defend your rights.

This way, you don’t:

  • get wrongfully convicted of criminal activity
  • spend years in jail needlessly
  • not see your family or loved ones for potentially years
  • get wrongfully accused of a serious crime by police officers

You deserve a fair trial in the criminal justice system.

Our law firm can provide you with that.

Talk soon.

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