The Rhode Island Arraignment Process

The Rhode Island Arraignment Process

If you’ve recently been arrested, it’s easy to become confused with all of the penalties, procedures, and legal terms that are often associated with criminal charges. However, there’s one specific step in the criminal process that is critical to understand before it happens, and that’s the Rhode Island Arraignment process. Without the knowledge of what an arraignment is and the measures that are carried out at this hearing, you can find yourself in a lot of legal trouble that may be irreversible.

What is an arraignment?

The Rhode Island Arraignment process begins shortly after someone is arrested and processed. An arraignment is the first official step in the legal process when the person arrested appears in a District Court and a judge formally presents the criminal charges to the individual, who is now referred to as the defendant. At this time, the defendant can plead “guilty”, “not guilty”, or “nolo contendere”. After a plea is entered and accepted by the judge, the bail will be set. If the defendant was charged with a misdemeanor, the bail is considered personal recognizance. This means that no money is actually exchanged. The defendant gives his or her word that they will appear at the next court date and abide by the terms and conditions of their release. If the defendant does not appear at the next court date or violates the terms of their release, they will be fined accordingly by an amount set by the state of Rhode Island. 

What are the steps in the Rhode Island arraignment Process?

The steps in a typical Rhode Island arraignment process are:

  • The individual who was arrested is called before a Rhode Island District Court judge.
  • The judge formally presents this individual with criminal charges, and they’re now referred to as the “defendant”.
  • The judge will ask how the defendant will plead.
  • The defendant responds with one of three filing options: guilty, not guilty, or nolo contendere (more about these three filing options below). 
  • The judge then decides the amount bail will be set, or if the defendant shall be released as per their own personal recognizance. 
  • The judge will provide the defendant with further instructions on required appearances at pre-trial meetings or a trial date.

What types of filing are there in Rhode Island?

There are three types of filings that a defendant can plead at the arraignment process in Rhode Island. 

  • Guilty 
  • Not Guilty
  • Nolo Contendere

While the first two options, guilty or not guilty, are self-explanatory, pleading nolo contendere is often misunderstood, especially if you don’t have a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney to explain the legal consequences of this plea. 

What does a nolo contendere plea mean in Rhode Island?

“Nolo Contendere” means “no contest” or in Latin translates to “I do not wish to contend.” If you’ve recently been arrested and you’re awaiting your arraignment process in Rhode Island, it is crucial to understand the legal implications and consequences of a nolo contendere plea. You may not be formally admitting guilt when pleading nolo contendere, but you are basically stating to the court that you don’t wish to defend yourself or dispute the charges. Nolo contendere pleas often result in the same penalties and consequences of a guilty plea. It is very important to speak with a criminal defense attorney before you enter any kind of plea at an arraignment process in Rhode Island. Entering a plea that you’re not sure of or that you don’t understand can lead to severe legal consequences and penalties that will be almost impossible to reverse. If you’ve been arrested and you have an arraignment process in Rhode Island approaching, contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately to discuss your case. 

Can charges be dropped at a Rhode Island arraignment process?

It is possible for charges to be dropped at a Rhode Island arraignment hearing. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to file for charges to be dropped for a variety of reasons. For instance, if your defense lawyer can identify obvious errors in the police actions during an arrest or if there are weak grounds for criminal charges, a judge may dismiss your case before you’re formally charged with a crime. However, without the legal representation of a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney, there’s a very small chance your criminal charges will be dropped. Only an experienced criminal defense lawyer will be able to discover these potential issues with your case and file for your case to be dismissed at your arraignment process in Rhode Island. 

How do I prepare for the arraignment?

Before you can prepare for an arraignment process in Rhode Island, you need to make one key decision. You can either choose to represent yourself, work with a public defender, or hire a criminal defense attorney. Unless you have a strong legal background in Rhode Island criminal law, it’s never advised to represent yourself. The criminal legal process can be daunting, confusing, long, and arduous. In addition, facing criminal charges for the first time can be emotional and overwhelming, which can hinder your appearance in court and lead to legal mistakes. 

Some may choose to work with a public defender, but this path isn’t necessarily recommended by legal experts either. Public defenders may be cost-effective or seen as suitable for first offenders, but there are a lot of disadvantages to choosing to work with a public defender. For example, they have a long list of cases to address, so they don’t have enough time to give your case a comprehensive look, design a defense, or create a path to dismissal. Public defenders are infamous for pushing for guilty pleas to avoid going to trial. In other words, working with a public defender means you’re just another name on a list. 

Hiring a private, experienced criminal defense attorney is your best chance at achieving the most optimal results. A criminal defense lawyer will fully examine the details of your charges, the arrest, witness statements, and all other circumstances related to your case. A Rhode Island criminal defense attorney will be there to help you prepare for your arraignment hearing by advising you on what to say, what not to say, how to address the judge, what to wear, and any other details necessary to help you to appear in a positive light before the court.

Why should I hire a criminal defense attorney for my arraignment process in Rhode Island?

There are significant advantages to hiring a criminal defense attorney to appear with you at your arraignment hearing. First and foremost, your lawyer will be more available to you than a public defender. Hiring a criminal defense attorney means that you have access to them to ask questions and discuss concerns. Second, your lawyer will make sure that you’re taking all of the right steps and guide you through the legal process. Finally, and perhaps the most important point — an experienced Rhode Island criminal attorney is there to defend you and produce the best possible outcome. Your attorney can design an aggressive defense strategy if your case goes to trial, work with the prosecutor’s office to create a path to dismissal, or discover plea options for you that result in minimum penalties. 

Remember that a criminal conviction can destroy a person’s future. Having a conviction on your record leads to an infinite amount of challenges to your everyday life. To learn more about the benefits of hiring a Rhode Island criminal defense attorney to assist you through your arraignment process and the following legal steps, contact our criminal defense law office today.