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What Happens at an Arraignment in North Carolina?

When someone has been arrested and accused of a crime in North Carolina, there is a formal hearing called an arraignment. During the arraignment, the judge will advise the defendant about the charges filed against them. The judge will also inform the defendant of their constitutional and legal rights. The judge will ask the defendant how they would like to plead — guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina, understanding what happens at an arraignment can help you make informed decisions about your case.

The Arraignment Process

Generally, arraignment is the first court hearing in a criminal case. Arraignment happens after someone has been arrested and occurs after the district attorney's office has failed formal charges against the defendant. The arraignment will usually occur two to three days after the arrest. The accused will be informed of the charges they are facing, advised of their rights, and reported about the consequences of a plea. You can expect the following to happen during your arraignment:

  • The judge will advise you of your constitutional rights
  • You will find out the specific criminal charges that the district attorney has filed against you
  • You will have your first opportunity to enter a plea
  • The courts will set, modify, reinstate, or exonerate your bail
The Levels of Crime in North Carolina

At your arraignment, the judge will tell you which charges you face. There are three main levels of criminal charges for crimes or public offenses in North Carolina:

  • Infractions
  • Misdemeanors
  • Felonies

Infractions are the least serious type of crime and are not punishable by imprisonment. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in county jail. Felonies are the most severe type of crime, punishable by over a year in prison. The procedures for infraction arrangements are basically the same as those for misdemeanors. The two crucial differences are that a person accused of an infraction is not entitled to a jury trial or appointed counsel.

Felony Arraignments

If you have been charged with a felony-level crime, there will be two arraignment hearings during your case. The first arraignment hearing happens at the start of criminal proceedings. The second arraignment hearing occurs after the preliminary hearing. If you committed an offense that requires you to remain in custody, the state must have your arraignment within 48 hours of your arrest, not including weekends and holidays. 

This time frame is the maximum time law enforcement officers, and prosecutors have before they must place you in front of a judge. Suppose you have been charged with an offense that does not require you to remain in custody. Your arraignment hearing does not have to occur for at least ten days following your arrest.

Advisement of Your Constitutional Rights

Courts must advise the fence about certain constitutional rights, including the right to legal counsel, the right to trial, and the right against self-incrimination. Defendants have a constitutional right to be represented by counsel at the moment. If you want an attorney present, they must allow you to obtain your own legal counsel or appoint a public defender for you.

Advisement of the Charges Against You

The court must inform you of the specific charges against you in North Carolina; prosecutors are required to read the charges and fairly summarize them for you. 

You Will Enter a Plea

Understanding your legal options before you enter a plea is important. If you enter a guilty plea, you admit you committed the crime. The not guilty plea means you claim you did not commit the crime. A no-contest plea does not admit guilt but does not dispute the charges against you. Entering a mute plea means the court will enter a plea of not guilty. Working with an attorney can help you understand your legal options. 

Have You Been Charged with a Crime in North Carolina? We are Here to Help

If you have been charged with a crime in North Carolina, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony charge, it is crucial that you have an experienced attorney on your side. The Charlotte criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, is prepared to investigate your taste, gather evidence, and work with you to develop an effective legal defense. When you work with our law firm, you can rest assured that we will fight diligently for the best possible outcome in your case. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation and learn more about how we can fight for you.