Articles on South Carolina Law

Arraignments in SC Federal Court

by | Nov 27, 2017 | Criminal Defense, Federal Crimes in SC

Arraignment. It’s one of those legal terms that we don’t use in our normal conversations with friends and family, but it is an important one.

If you are facing a charge in federal court, this post is for you! This article will effortlessly help you understand what you need to know about arraignments.

Basics of Arraignments

Arraignments in South Carolina occur in Federal Court. An arraignment is an initial or first court appearance. It is the first court appearance you will go to for your federal case. An arraignment in federal court is very similar to a bond hearing in state or lower level courts.

What happens at an arraignment?

During an arraignment, you will be in a courtroom and will appear in front of a federal magistrate judge. At that time, the Judge will either read to you what you are charged with from the charging document, called an indictment. If you and your attorney are already aware of these charges, you can let the judge know you waive the reading of the indictment. This means the Judge will not read the indictment to you. You will receive a copy of your indictment. You and your attorney will sign a written waiver confirming that you received a copy of the indictment or information about the crimes alleged.

Why have an arraignment?

The purpose of an arraignment is to let you know what you are being charged with. In other words, this hearing lets you know what type of crime the Federal Government thinks you have committed and some details of why they believe this occurred.

When does the arraignment occur?

An arraignment occurs long before your trial begins. In fact, your arraignment can be months or even a year prior to your trial. If you have already been arrested and are in jail for the crime, your arraignment will be within a short period of time after your arrest.

Entering a Plea

An important part of your arraignment will be when the Judge asks you or your attorney how you wish to plead. This means the judge is asking you, did you do it or not? A typical, common response is to plead “not guilty” at this stage of the proceedings. Once this is established, the Judge will schedule future court hearings.

If you do not have an attorney at your arraignment, the judge will ask you whether you are going to hire your own, private attorney. The other option is to find out whether you qualify for a federal public defender. If you are unsure of whether you have the money to hire a private attorney, such as Susan E. Williams, or whether you wish to see if you qualify for a public defender, you can always find out if you qualify for a public defender. If you do qualify for a public defender, you can hire a private attorney later when it suits your finances.

Setting Bond

At your arraignment the Judge will determine whether you can be granted a bond. The purpose of a bond is to insure the court you will show up for court.

The Judge may impose restrictions on your bond, such as not leaving the state, no contact with the alleged victim, stay out of trouble and not be arrested, house arrest, and/or electronic monitoring. The Judge may deny your bond. The Judge may release you on a “PR” bond, which means you do not have to put up any money to be released.

What does a Judge consider when setting bond?

At an arraignment, the Judge will be looking at two factors to figure out whether you will have to be in jail until your case is resolved, or whether you can go home until your case is resolved.

The first factor is whether you are a flight risk.

The judge will consider your ties to SC, such as whether you own property here versus renting property, how much family you have here, whether you work or go to school here, and how long you have lived in this state. The judge will want to know if you have any out state or out of country ties. The Judge will want to know if you are a legal US citizen, or whether you face deportation. It would be beneficial to have friends and family appear at your arraignment to show the Judge you have good family and community support and local ties.

The second factor is whether you are a danger to the community.

The Judge will want to know your prior criminal history. You will want to know this before your arraignment since the Judge will likely be provided a printout of your criminal history. The Judge will want to know if you are currently, or have ever been on probation or parole.

The court will also consider whether the crime you are being charged with at the arraignment is a dangerous, violent offense. The Judge can consider whether you have a history of violence or violent tendencies.

Your attorney should be ready to argue why you are not a flight risk and why you are not a danger to the community. Having an attorney to represent you at this stage of the proceedings is crucial since the judge at an arraignment decides whether you will go to jail until your case is resolved or go home.

Attorney Representation at Arraignments

You need an attorney at an arraignment. Arraignments are your first opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty. This is an incredibly important step at an arraignment and one that you should not try to decide for yourself. It is very important to understand what you are facing and what the repercussions of pleading guilty are

Facing a charge in federal court?

An arraignment is an initial hearing when you will appear before a judge. You’ll find out at that hearing what crime or crimes you are being accused of and a brief synopsis of why. You will also find out if you will be in jail that day or be allowed to go home. You will have to abide by all terms of bond if bond is granted. Finally, it is your first chance to tell the Judge whether you wish to plead guilty or not guilty.

Everyone deserves the right to a fair trial. I recommend having an attorney at this stage of your case and recommend you go over all of the evidence in your case with your attorney before notifying the Judge of your plea of guilty or not guilty.

Being in federal court is very intimidating if you do not know the process. Susan E. Williams has handled numerous federal court arraignments in the District Court of South Carolina. Have the benefit of her experience on your side when you face an arraignment.

Contact Susan Williams to find out if she can help. Set up a free consultation so she can examine the facts of your case. You don’t have to fight this battle alone.

Just call (843) 607-9800 or contact us through our online form.

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