Experienced and Accessible Criminal Defense on Your Side Call or Text Me Today
Court in session

What to Expect at Your Arraignment

Greg Nelson Attorney at Law May 20, 2024

As soon as you are charged with a crime, the gears of the criminal justice machine begin turning. This sets a complex process in motion, beginning with your first appearance in court, which is known as an “arraignment.”  

Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of thinking that an arraignment in their criminal case is just a formality. “It’s my first appearance in court, not a trial, so it’s no big deal,” you might be thinking.  

If you are waiting for your arraignment after an arrest or when being under investigation for a criminal offense, you need to understand what to expect at your first court appearance and how it might impact your case going forward.

As a criminal defense attorney practicing in Omaha, Nebraska, I am committed to standing up for the rights of my clients at all steps of the criminal justice process: at an arraignment, during a pre-trial period, and at the trial.

At Greg Nelson Attorney at Law, I provide service to clients across the state of Nebraska, including Dodge County, Washington County, Saunders County, and Sarpy County.  

What Is Arraignment in Nebraska Criminal Courts? 

An arraignment is usually the first court appearance for the defendant (the person facing criminal charges). Arraignments are held as formal hearings at which the defendant is brought before the court to learn about the charges they face and their rights. During the hearing, the defendant is asked to enter their plea (guilty/not guilty/no contest), which shapes the direction of subsequent legal proceedings.  

According to Nebraska Criminal Rules, the defendant’s arraignment should be scheduled no more than 48 hours after the person was arrested and placed in custody. The only exception to the 48-hour rule is if the defendant or their legal counsel agrees to delay the proceeding.  

What Happens at the Arraignment? 

As mentioned earlier, an arraignment is one of the first steps in the criminal justice process, which is why attending this hearing is critical. Many people may feel intimidated by this hearing largely due to the fact that they do not know what to expect when they arrive there. Below is a brief guide as to what to expect during your first appearance in court:  

  1. The prosecutor will inform you of the charges filed against you. One of the first things that happens during the arraignment is a formal reading of the criminal charges in the presence of the defendant. The judge will also notify you of your rights.  

  1. You can have your legal counsel present. While you will be formally informed of your right to legal counsel during the arraignment, you can retain an attorney beforehand so that they attend the hearing with you.  

  1. You enter your plea. Once the judge reads the charges, you will be asked to enter your plea. Generally, defendants can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced immediately without the need for a trial. If you plead no contest, you are essentially saying you will not fight the charge against you, which also means there will be no trial. If you plead not guilty, the court will schedule a date for a trial.  

  1. The judge will set (or not set) the bail amount. Paying bail serves as a guarantee that you will show up to your future court dates. If bail is allowed in your case, the judge will set the amount based on the nature and severity of the offense, your criminal past, and other factors.  

  1. The court will schedule dates for future proceedings. If you plead not guilty, the court will set dates for pre-trial motions and other upcoming proceedings before the trial.  

When you have an understanding of what happens at your arraignment, you become better prepared for what lies ahead of you. However, it could be helpful to get a personalized consultation from an attorney who can advise you in more detail about what to expect at your upcoming arraignment.  

Do You Need an Attorney for Your Arraignment?

Having legal counsel at the arraignment is your legal right but it’s up to you whether you want to exercise this right or not. While some defendants attend their arraignments without an attorney, having an attorney present during the hearing to represent you can make a huge difference. Here are some of the reasons you might want to consider hiring an attorney for your arraignment:  

  • Without legal counsel, you could miss out on opportunities or agree to a plea deal that doesn’t serve your best interests;  

  • Your attorney will help you decide on the correct plea based on the strengths and weaknesses of the case against you;  

  • Your attorney will argue for a reasonable bail amount and help you stay out of jail;  

  • Your attorney will communicate with prosecutors to negotiate a more favorable plea deal or a potentially lesser charge; and 

  • Your attorney will be meticulous about preparing you for your arraignment so that you know what to say, what not to say, and how to behave during the hearing. 

If you have been charged with a crime and are facing an upcoming arraignment, consider contacting a criminal defense attorney to discuss the details of your situation. Having legal counsel during this turbulent time can bring peace of mind and help you feel more confident when your court date arrives.  

Speak With a Criminal Defense Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska

At Greg Nelson Attorney at Law, I strive to alleviate some of the stress my clients feel ahead of their first court appearance by helping them prepare for what lies ahead. As your legal counsel, I can help you make well-reasoned decisions about your plea options and other matters in your criminal case. With more than 20 years of experience representing those facing criminal charges, I can provide you with an objective perspective of your situation and treat your case with the empathy and attention it deserves. Call or text me today to request a consultation.