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Arraignment in Florida

An Arraignment is a crucial stage in Florida’s criminal case process. During an arraignment, the prosecutor reads aloud the charges filed against the defendant and the defendant has to enter a formal response pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

Purpose of Arraignment

Besides learning about the charges, a defendant also learns about their constitutional rights, including:

  • The right to have legal counsel.
  • The court may seek to know whether the defendant intends to hire an attorney. If a defendant is not able to hire an attorney, the court may recommend a public defender.
  • The defendant makes a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest during the arraignment.

Possible Responses at the Arraignment Hearing

After informing the defendant of their criminal charges, the judge asks for the defendant’s plea. The defendant can plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest.

Not Guilty

The majority of defendants plead not guilty at an arraignment. Criminal defense attorneys often advise their clients to plead not guilty at this stage. If a defendant pleads not guilty, the prosecutor must gather enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. This plea also gives the defense ample time to investigate the case, review the evidence, create a defense, or engage in plea negotiations.


Pleading guilty means that you accept all the charges leveled against you. After a guilty plea, the judge may sentence the defendant either based on the judge’s assessment of the crime or pursuant to an agreement between the defense and the prosecutor. In a more serious offense, the judge usually sets a separate sentencing hearing. The judge may also request a pre-sentence report.

No Contest

Also known as nolo contendere, this plea means that the defendant acknowledges that the prosecutor has ample evidence against him. However, pleading no contest means that the defendant still does not admit guilt. If a defendant gives a no contest plea, the court proceeds in the same way it would if the defendant pleaded guilty.

Waiving the Arraignment

Often, if you hire private counsel, you may waive an arraignment. This is common if you have an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney in your corner. Your attorney will communicate with the prosecutor and the court on your behalf to present a waiver of arraignment in writing. In response, the court can allow you to waive arraignment and arrange another hearing.

Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been arrested in Florida or charged with a crime, you should consult a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will help you during the arraignment process. You should not wait too long to contact an attorney; ideally, you should contact an attorney immediately after you are arrested.

The legal process can be confusing, and you will need an experienced attorney to guide you and protect your rights throughout the court proceedings. Our experienced attorneys at Shrader Law, PLLC, provide criminal defense services in Florida.

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