In misdemeanor cases, this is the stage at which the court advises the defendant of the defendant’s rights, including the right to counsel. The defendant will be offered an opportunity to consult with counsel before proceeding further. The court will reschedule the hearing to give the defendant that opportunity.
When the defendant is ready to proceed, either at the initial arraignment, or the rescheduled arraignment in both misdemeanor and felony cases, the judge reads the charges to the defendant, who must enter a plea.
If the plea is “guilty,” the court will ensure that the defendant understands the rights the defendant will be waiving. If the court is satisfied the defendant understands the consequences, the court will accept the guilty plea. The court will schedule a date for sentencing.
If the plea is “not guilty,” a pretrial conference and trial dates are usually scheduled. A “not guilty” plea preserves all of the defendant’s options. There are also two other types of pleas
- No Contest: This has the same procedural effect as a guilty plea, but rather than admitting guilt, the defendant admits that the prosecutor would likely prevail at trial. A judge has discretion to reject this type of plea.
Alford plea: This plea may be used when the defendant wants the advantage of a plea bargain, but cannot or will not admit guilt. Instead, the defendant pleads to avoid the potential consequences of going to trial, and pleads without admitting guilt. A judge has discretion to reject this type of plea.