If you have been arrested for a crime, especially if it is your first alleged criminal defense, you will be thrown into a legal process that takes practicing lawyers years to master. It is always in your interest to consult with an experienced, competent criminal defense attorney who can help explain and guide you through the complex and sometimes intimidating criminal justice system. To get you started, however, here is a list of four words that you may hear during your case and their definitions.
- Arraignment. Arraignment is typically the initial hearing before a judge that you will have after you arrest. The arraignment should take place within a day or two of your arrest. At the arraignment, the judge will read the charges alleged against you and you will respond with a plea. You have the option to plead not guilty, guilty, or, in some jurisdictions, you will be able to plea a third option commonly known as “no contest ” or nolo contendere. You should certainly consult with an attorney before making your plea, because it will have a significant effect on the rest of your case. Remember that, in most cases, if you cannot afford an attorney you will qualify for a court-appointed lawyer, which you may ask for at your arraignment, if not before. Finally, at your arraignment, your judge will set bail and schedule a hearing on the charges against you.
- Bail. Bail is the amount of money that the court requires you to pay to be released from jail while you await your hearing. Bail money is a guarantee that you will return: if you appear in court for your scheduled hearing, you will get your bail money back. Judges typically set bail using a chart and will set different amounts depending on the type of crime you have committed. Judges will also consider other factors such as whether this is your first offense. Your attorney will help make your case for a lower bail amount.
- Bond. Bond is a good option for many criminal defendants who are unable to afford their bail out of pocket. Bond is a process by which you can call a bail bondsman who will post bail on your behalf. In exchange you often pay a portion of the bail money to the bondsman, who will keep the money as a fee regardless if you show up on your hearing day. Bail bondsmen may also require collateral for the bond, which is in essence a loan. Some court systems also offer criminal defendants the option to post property as collateral directly to the court as a bond, to prevent criminal defendants from having to hire a bondsman.
- Indictment. Indictment is another type of hearing used typically only for felonies or other serious crimes. At an indictment a group of citizens called for jury duty, termed a “grand jury”, will hear the accusations against a criminal defendant and decide whether the government has enough evidence to charge the criminal defendant with the crime. If the grand jury believes there is enough evidence, the defendant will be “indicted” and the charges will be read at his or her arraignment.
These are only four of many words that you will hear during the life of your criminal case that you may not be familiar with. Remember to always consult with criminal defense lawyers Melbourne, Florida residents trust if you have questions about your case.
Thank you to our contributors at Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC for the above information.