Do I Need a Lawyer for a First Court Appearance?

Understanding Tampa's Legal System

If you have been arrested in Florida, you will be “arraigned” within 24 hours of your arrest, either in person in front of a judge or magistrate or through live video. An arraignment is the first formal court hearing where the judge or magistrate informs you of the charges against you, provide you with a copy of the complaint, advise you on your right to a lawyer, and set conditions of your release (if applicable).

Once the judge informs you of the criminal charges, you will be asked to plead either one of the following formal responses:

  • Not guilty - Pleading “not guilty” informs the judge that you did not commit the alleged crimes against you. You have the option of requesting a trial by jury or a judge.
  • Guilty - Pleading “guilty” means you admitted to the charges against you, which gives a judge the authority to impose punishment for those crimes.
  • No contest - Pleading “no contest” means you do not admit nor deny the charges against you. Although you are not admitting guilt, it is similar to a guilty plea since you are asking the court to resolve the case.

Why You Need a Lawyer at Arraignment?

The first step you need to take after an arrest is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you obtain the most favorable outcome in your case. Whether you hired a lawyer or wish to hire one for your arraignment, the judge is required to provide you with a reasonable time to obtain an attorney.

If you need time to find a lawyer, the judge may postpone the first appearance in order to allow you to “send for” your lawyer. However, if you remain in custody beyond the 24-hour period, the judge may appoint a lawyer on your behalf for your arraignment.

If you were charged with a misdemeanor (unless it is a domestic violence or protective order case), your lawyer is allowed to appear in court for you. He/she may protect your rights and freedom without requiring your presence in all stages of your case.

Attorney Maj Vasigh is on Your Side in Court

If you have been arrested in Tampa or Hillsborough County, let Vasigh Law fight for the best possible result in your case. With more than 12 years of trial experience, Attorney Maj Vasigh can thoroughly review your case, help you get released from custody, guide you through the complexities of the legal process, and either get your charges/penalties reduced, obtain a not-guilty verdict, or get your entire case dismissed.

Contact us today at (813) 213-3124 and schedule a free initial consultation.