If you are facing criminal charges, the first step in your case is called an arraignment. At your arraignment, you will be told what charges you are facing. For example, “Retail Fraud in the third degree.” You will also be told what the maximum penalties are. For example, “Retail Fraud is punishable by up to 93 days in jail.”
Anyone who is charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense in Michigan should always plead not guilty at their arraignment. An arraignment is a time and place at court where you are told what criminal charges you are facing, the penalties for the crime are (maximum amount of jail time, and fines) and a bond is set. It is also likely that you will be given your next court date.
The Michigan Criminal Justice System Is Tough
In many cases, the prosecutor’s throw the book at the defendant. I’ve wanted to yell “plea not guilty” at people in open court who admit their guilt and plead guilty to all the charges they were facing at their arraignment. If you are facing multiple charges, a skilled attorney should be able to get some of your charges dropped.
A skilled attorney can look at the evidence, find the weakness in the prosecutor’s case and use this weakness to get the prosecutor to agree to drop some of the charges.
By pleading not guilty at your arraignment, you are not hurting yourself at all! If you want to admit responsibility for your actions, there is a time and place for that. Judges will take your willingness to admit responsibility into consideration at your sentencing. However, sentencing is a different process than an arraignment. (Though in some cases you can come in at your arraignment, plead guilty and then be sentenced on the same date.)
Do Not Plead Guilty At Arraignment!
I have also watched some defendants waive their chance to be given diversions by pleading guilty at their arraignment. Some Judges will not sentence you under a diversion program automatically. A skilled attorney will know what diversion programs you may qualify for and work hard to have you sentenced under such programs.
Many district courts in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area have been assigning court appointed attorneys to represent a person only at the arraignment. This attorneys, many times are newbies out of law school and sometime interns. Do not let them have you plead guilty to a charge until you have call me first at 616-438-6719. You get what you pay for and free legal help for inexperienced counsel may very well cost you dearly.