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Criminal Charges in Mississippi: What Happens at the Arraignment

If you are arrested and charged with a crime, your first court appearance will be at an “arraignment.” You will be appearing before a judge, and it is important to remember that you should stand when you speak to the judge. Some judges can become angry at a perceived slight, so always be respectful. During the arraignment, the judge may review your charge to determine whether the charge is proper.  If the judge decides that there is probable cause for your arrest, you will be asked to enter your plea. In most cases, it is best to enter a plea of Not Guilty and immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. If you enter a plea of Not Guilty, you can change your plea later if the District Attorney offers you a reasonable plea offer. If you are indigent and cannot afford an attorney, you may ask the Court to appoint a public defender to represent you.

Guilty and No Contest Pleas

The two other plea options are Guilty and No Contest. No Contest is similar to Guilty in that you are accepting the validity of the charge – but with No Contest you are not admitting guilt. A No Contest plea can be preferable to a Guilty plea if you will be able to expunge your record later on or if you might be exposed to civil lawsuits. If you plead No Contest or Guilty, you could be sentenced at that time, depending on the severity of the charge, and will not go to trial. If you plead Not Guilty, a pre-trial date or a trial date will be set.

Posting Bond so You Can Get Out of Jail

During the arraignment or preliminary hearing, the judge will set the bail or bond amount, which varies depending on the crime and the defendant’s criminal history. If the crime is not serious and the judge feels that you are likely to show up to your court date, there might not be a required bail amount and you will be released. In Hinds County there is almost always a bond of some kind.  In a recent case I was representing a client charged with Aggravated Assault who had no prior charges.  The Judge set my client’s bond at $10,000, but sometimes on this type of case you can get bail reduced to $5,000, but it is up to the judge’s discretion.  If you are charged with a serious crime, such as rape or murder, the judge may decide to set your bail for an extremely high amount or not to grant bail at all and you will have to remain in jail until your trial. You can always ask for a speedy trial in this situation.

Thomas Alonzo

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