Arraignment in Federal Court

There are numerous differences between how criminal cases are handled in state court vs. federal court. One major difference is the arraignment. In state court here in Florida, judges don’t require defendants to appear. We file “pleadings” in advance of the hearing, announcing our appearance and entering a plea to the charges. We also typically demand all of the evidence pursuant to Rule 3.220. State prosecutors typically announce at the arraignment what charges, if any, they will be filing.

Federal arraignments are different. Judges require defendants to be present. At the arraignment, we announce four major things: 1) We waive formal reading of the indictictment. (That’s done almost always. Otherwise, the judge would have to read out loud the entire several page indictment); 2) We enter a “not guilty” plea. (That can always be changed at a later time to “guilty” if a plea agreement can be negotiated) 3) We demand trial by jury. (That doesn’t mean we will definitely be going to trial. It just preserves our client’s right to one); 4) We request that the judge sign the standard discovery order. (That will enable us to see available and discoverable evidence to prepare for trial and/or to work out a plea agreement)

Almost always, we enter a “not guilty” plea on our client’s behalf, regardless of whether it’s in state or federal court. “Not guilty” doesn’t mean our client is innocent. It also doesn’t mean that we won’t later advise the client to change his plea and avoid going to trial. In more than 90% of cases, prosecutors offer plea bargains that are typically too good to pass up. Additionally, most defendants are fearful about going to trial.

Furthermore, “not guilty” can also mean that the prosecutors can’t prove the case. In light of the burden of proof lying exclusively on the shoulders of the prosecutors, it’s prudent to enter a “not guilty” plea initially and first determine if they have sufficient evidence to prove the charges. If they don’t, we can often persuade prosecutors to eventually drop or reduce charges. Alternatively, we go to trial and hopefully prevail.
If you have a federal criminal matter and/or a state criminal matter, no matter how minor or major the charge, call us for a free evaluation. 305.674.0003 and We’re happy to assist you.

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