Should I Represent Myself at Arraignment Court?
As a defendant, you may feel that you are more than capable of representing yourself at arraignment court – after all, you just state whether you are guilty or not and request bail, right? While this is partially true, it is important to realize that arraignment court is one of many important stages in a criminal case – and if you are being charged with a serious crime, you cannot risk representing yourself, regardless of what minor steps you may have to take.
The arraignment process is the same whether you are being detained or not. If you are in custody at the time of your arraignment, you will need to request that the judge issues bail; or, if you have already been released on bail, you may use that opportunity to request a lower bail amount. Your bail status will be subject to review by the judge based on circumstances. If those circumstances change, you may be able to request a lower bail amount. However, this would require that you know how to present your change in circumstances and make them compelling enough to grant bail, lower bail, or let you be released on your own recognizance. Often, it requires the assistance of an attorney who understands the law and statutes to negotiate a better bail.
Missing Out on a Good Deal
It is not a good idea to represent yourself alone during arraignment. That is because there are plenty of technicalities that can increase your bail amount or force you to remain in jail even when you should have been released on bail. Defendants who intend to plead guilty may also be risking their freedom when they represent themselves in court. That is because a defense attorney knows how to look for better plea bargains.
If you plan to plead guilty, you will want an attorney representing you during the arraignment. That way, you can enter your guilty plea right away – and often receive a more lenient sentence from the judge than if you wait to plead out later.
Lastly, arraignment judges are more likely to lower bail when there is legal representation involved. If you are considering self-representation, you should postpone arraignment until you can consult with a criminal defense attorney about your decision.
If you are just trying to buy time until you find the right attorney or can find the money to afford an attorney, you could be putting yourself at risk. Pro se representation is never a good idea – regardless of whether the charges are minor or not. Instead, you need to consult an attorney. An attorney can assist you even if you plan to self-represent, and work as an advocate so that you understand the legal process.
Ultimately, it is always best to hire a professional. An attorney can handle the smaller tasks, as well as the bigger ones, that affect the outcome of your case. If you have been arrested, do not represent yourself at arraignment. Instead, contact the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices to explore your options. Schedule an appointment with an attorney now by calling 505-375-4661, or fill out our online contact form with your legal questions.