The first step is always to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. Your attorney can help you understand both the challenges and the opportunities in your case and craft the best strategy for defending your rights and optimizing the outcome.
After an arrest, you’ll appear before a judge. This first appearance is called an “arraignment,” and it’s an opportunity for the judge to tell you what you’ve been charged with and you to respond to the charge by entering a plea. Entering a plea of “not guilty” here buys you time to investigate the charges and build your case, so it’s wise to do so.
After your arraignment, you can work with your lawyer to decide on a plan of action. Typically, you have four options. You can simply plead guilty as charged, seek a deal to plead guilty to a lesser offense, ask for a trial before the judge alone (a bench trial), or ask for a jury trial.
Your lawyer can help you decide which option is best in your particular case. Your lawyer can also help you make a contingency plan in case your first-choice option falls through (for instance, if you decide you want to seek a plea deal but the prosecutor won’t bargain), or help you evaluate the terms of a plea deal if one is offered to you.
If you decide to plead, a court hearing date and time will be set for you to enter your plea and hear the sentence you will serve. If you decide to go to trial, a date and time will be set. There may also be a separate pre-trial conference scheduled.
John W. Tumelty is a New Jersey Supreme Court certified criminal trial attorney and a former prosecutor who now fights for those who have been charged with a crime. For a free and confidential consultation, contact his office today at 609.385.4010.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.