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Understanding Arraignment in Maryland Criminal Cases


The legal process following an arrest in Maryland can be complex and daunting, particularly for individuals unfamiliar with the nuances of criminal proceedings. Among the crucial initial steps in the legal journey is the arraignment, a pivotal stage that sets the tone for the subsequent legal proceedings.

Understanding what an arraignment entails and the importance of having legal representation during this phase is imperative for anyone facing criminal charges in Maryland. This article will discuss what an arraignment is, what you can expect during an arraignment, and why employing the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney is vital for your case.

What is an Arraignment?

An arraignment marks the formal beginning of the criminal court process. It is the defendant’s first appearance before a judge following their arrest.

During the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges filed against them and is given an opportunity to enter a plea. Defendants are given the chance to enter a plea, typically one of three options:

  • Guilty — An admission of guilt moves the case towards sentencing.
  • Not Guilty — A denial of the charges, prompting the case to proceed to trial.
  • No Contest (Nolo Contendere) — Not an admission of guilt but treated as such for sentencing purposes.

When Does an Arraignment Occur?

In Maryland, the arraignment typically occurs shortly after the arrest and before sentencing. Arraignments generally are a quick process, and the Supreme Court established that arraignments for criminal charges must happen as soon as possible.

Typically, an arraignment will be held within 48 hours of incarceration. However, specific timelines can vary based on the nature of the charges and court scheduling.

What to Expect During an Arraignment in Maryland

Arraignments are usually a very short process. They can include some or all of the following actions.

  • Reading of Charges — The defendant is presented with a formal reading of the charges against them. This is a critical moment when the defendant becomes aware of the specific allegations and legal violations they face.
  • Plea Entry — The defendant will enter their plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  • Court Appointed Counsel — If you’ve already hired a criminal defense attorney, they should appear at the arraignment with you. If you do not have an attorney, the court will appoint you one at this time.
  • Bail Consideration — Sometimes, the judge may address bail or release conditions during the arraignment. This involves determining whether the defendant should be released pending trial and under what conditions.
  • Pretrial Motions — Pretrial motions will be scheduled for a later date and time.
  • Schedule Additional Hearings — Any upcoming hearings related to the criminal case will be scheduled.

Why Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney is Crucial

In Maryland, you have the right to represent yourself in court. The legal term for this is pro se representation

While it is your right to represent yourself, it may not be the best choice when facing criminal charges. When facing criminal charges in Maryland, seeking legal representation from an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney is a proactive step toward protecting your rights and securing a fair legal process.

Here are some reasons why hiring a criminal defense attorney can benefit your case.

  • Legal Guidance and Understanding — Navigating the legal system can be overwhelming. A seasoned criminal defense attorney possesses a deep understanding of Maryland’s criminal laws and court procedures. They can explain the charges, potential consequences, and legal options available to the defendant.
  • Protection of Rights — Defendants have constitutional rights that must be protected. An attorney ensures that the defendant’s rights are upheld throughout the arraignment and subsequent legal proceedings.
  • Strategic Counsel — Attorneys analyze the specifics of the case, craft defense strategies, and advise on the most appropriate plea to enter. They advocate for the best possible outcome through negotiations, seeking reduced charges, or preparing for trial.
  • Bail Advocacy — A defense attorney can present compelling arguments for reasonable bail or improved release conditions, which can significantly impact the defendant’s freedom before trial.
  • Procedural Assistance — Attorneys handle the paperwork, filings, and legal formalities, ensuring compliance with court requirements and deadlines. This prevents potential errors that could negatively affect the case.

Trust Jeremy Widder Law to Safeguard Your Rights in Your Criminal Defense Case

The arraignment phase in Maryland criminal cases is a critical juncture that demands careful attention and informed decision-making. Having a competent criminal defense attorney by your side during this stage is not just advisable but often crucial. Their expertise, guidance, and advocacy can profoundly influence the trajectory and outcome of the case, safeguarding the defendant’s rights and working toward a favorable resolution.

At Jeremy Widder Law, we know that being charged with a crime can be scary. But you don’t have to fight the charges alone. You need someone on your side who will fight for your rights and provide you with a defense strategy with the best chance to lead to your preferred outcome. Our team will be next to you every step of the way, guiding you through the legal system and protecting your rights and future.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation.


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