Understanding Arraignment in Georgia
An arraignment is the start of the criminal prosecution in your DUI case or any other criminal case. Many times, such as in cases in Atlanta Municipal Court, the arraignment is literally only a couple of days after a person's DUI arrest. Most of the time, it is scheduled for several weeks later. Whether your arraignment is next week or in a few months, call now to make sure your rights are protected. Richard Lawson has been helping people charged with DUI in Georgia for more than 25 years. He is a former DUI prosecutor who has focused his entire career on defending people charged with DUI and related offenses to DUI. He is Georgia's top-rated and most reviewed attorney. His reviews can be found on Avvo.
The Importance of Hiring an Attorney Before Arraignment:
At an arraignment, your Georgia DUI Lawyer will enter an initial plea. The initial plea, no matter how you ultimately decide to resolve your case, will be a plea of not guilty. The initial plea of not guilty, accompanied by the filing of appropriate discovery motions, will allow your Georgia DUI Attorney to get access to the incident report, arrest videos, toxicology reports, Brady Material (exculpatory evidence), scientific reports, witness statements, and all other evidence related to your case.
In State Court and Superior Court, generally there is only one arraignment, but occasionally, a person is given a one-time continuance to hire an attorney. No one should count on a reset of his or her case. Many times judges will force a person to enter a not guilty plea to move the case on to the next stage, which would include motions and potentially a trial. However, things are different in Georgia's municipal courts.
In municipal court, there are often multiple arraignments that are used to move the case along to its resolution. The reason there can be more than one arraignment is that some cases are reset so that the State's attorney (solicitor) can respond to discovery requests and to keep the lines of communication and negotiation open. Once a case comes to a head, and the accused is forced to enter a plea of some kind, the time to negotiate in municipal court ends. The defendant must then choose to accept an agreement (negotiated plea) in municipal court or bind-over to the case to State or Superior Court for trial.
You have an absolute right to attend your arraignment and an absolute right to be formally arraigned. Formal arraignment is when the court reads aloud all of the charges against you. Although very rare, this is your right. You also have the right to stand mute and not enter a plea once formally arraigned. If you do not enter a plea, the judge will enter a not guilty plea in the record on your behalf. Failure to enter a plea will not stop the criminal process. To be clear, in the modern world, formal arraignment is antiquated and unnecessary. It is a vestige of a time when many people were illiterate and needed to have the charges read aloud. Today, people that request formal arraignment are usually viewed as having a misunderstanding of the process.
Arraignment is an Important Stage in Your Georgia DUI Case:
The reason arraignment is so important has to do with the filing of motions. Motions are both substantive and procedural. The procedural motions include the plea of not guilty, and the discovery motions filed. Again, discovery motions are the means in which the defense compels the production of evidence, scientific reports and witness statements. Failure to file the correct motions can result in the defense waiving their right to see the evidence in the case.
The substantive motions are even more important. In a DUI case, the entire defense can come down to filing and arguing the correct motions. Many people have cases that appear un-defendable at first glance. The person may have tested above .08 on a breath-test, or they may appear impaired on a video. But if the police officer did not follow all of the correct procedures in the case, some or all of that evidence may be suppressed. With a successful motion to suppress, the prosecutor will have less evidence that be used in the case against you. That is why the filing and arguing of substantive motions can make the entire difference in the case.
At, or before arraignment, the defense must file all motions. This includes both substantive and procedural motions. This is why it is imperative to hire an Atlanta DUI lawyer prior to your arraignment. If you appear at arraignment unrepresented, you may waive your right to file the motions in your case that could potentially mean the difference between an acquittal and a conviction.
Many people express concern when we tell them that we plan to “waive arraignment.” The concern would appear warranted when reading about the importance of arraignment outlined in this article. However, the term “waiving arraignment” is misleading because it has nothing to do with waiving the right outlined above. It simply means that instead of appearing in person, your lawyer will file all of the correct motions prior to the actual court date. Additionally, your attorney will file a plea of “not guilty” in writing. So, in effect your arraignment occurs without your actual appearance.
Our clients ask us every day if their failure to appear in court will result in a violation of their bond. People are afraid that a warrant will be issued for their arrest for failing to appear in court. Many times the bondsman calls the day before to remind you of court and your obligation. The bonding company means well, but other than helping people get released after arrest, they do not participate in the proceedings thereafter. To be a bondsman, there is no legal training and their admonitions have no bearing on your case.
We understand the fear, but it is unwarranted. For courts that allow Georgia DUI Attorneys to waive arraignment, the filed waiver excuses all parties involved. There is no cause for concern when your lawyer waives your arraignment. However, never forget that you will later have mandatory court appearances. Waiving arraignment only excuses the defense from the initial court date.
Hire the Top-Rated Georgia DUI Attorneys From Our Office:
Never forget that if you are charged with a DUI in Georgia, you should hire top-rated defense counsel. Your rights can only be protected by Georgia DUI Lawyers that know all of the legal and factual defenses that may apply in your case. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your case will not defend itself, and failure to act can cause you to lose your rights. Call Now!