What happens at an arraignment hearing?
After a defendant has been arrested or summoned on a criminal complaint, an
arraignment hearing is set. At arraignment, the defendant is advised of his
or her rights. In a misdemeanor case the defendant enters a plea to the alleged
offense. The pleas are:
Guilty: This is a complete admission of guilt.
No Contest: This is not an admission of guilt, but is
an admission of the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint.
The plea of no contest shall not be used against you in any later
civil or criminal proceeding.
Not Guilty: This is a denial of the charge and puts
in issue all of the essential elements of the offense.
- Not Guilty
by Reason of Insanity
Pleas of guilty or no contest are
usually disposed of the same day at arraignment with the Judge
sentencing the defendant.
In a felony case, a plea does not
need to be entered at arraignment and the case is scheduled for
a preliminary hearing before the court to determine if enough
evidence exists in the case to bind the case over for consideration
by the grand jury in Seneca County Common Pleas Court.
need a lawyer?
If you are charged with a jailable offense,
it may be wise to consult with an attorney. You have the right
to have a lawyer represent with you at all stages of the proceedings.
A lawyer can help you understand the charges against you and
the defenses you can raise. You may ask for a continuance in
your case to retain counsel.
If you are not able to employ counsel,
you may qualify for a court appointed attorney at no cost to
you. Court appointed attorneys must be requested from the judge,
and you may be asked for information regarding your income
or required to fill out paperwork justifying your request.
do no qualify for a court appointed attorney and need information
about hiring an attorney, you may contact the Seneca County Bar
Association or check the yellow pages.
I have witnesses for
my case. Do I need to have them show up for trial?
Yes. Witnesses play an integral role in
the criminal justice system and are needed to corroborate testimony
or to give testimony as to acts that occurred in their presence.
Witnesses are usually issued a subpoena to appear in court
on a case. A subpoena compels the witness to appear in court
and give testimony. Failure to honor a subpoena (appear in
court) may result in the court issuing a contempt warrant for
the arrest of the witness.
When arriving at the court, please
check in with the clerk’s
office. If you have special concerns as a witness, please bring
these to the bailiff's attention and he will attempt to assist
you. After the case is heard the court will excuse you. If you
are in need of proof that you were present in court, the clerk’s
office will provide you with a letter.
What occurs during the
With a plea of not guilty in a misdemeanor case, the case is
scheduled for trial. The trial is either a bench trial or a jury
trial. In a bench trial the case is tried and presented to the
Judge to determine guilt or innocence. In a Jury Trial the case
is tried and presented to a jury of peers from the community
to determine guilt or innocence. Trials proceed in the following
Opening Statements: Both sides of the
case give statements as to the evidence and testimony they will
be presenting during the trial. Opening statements are not evidence.
Case-in-Chief: The prosecutor will call witnesses and
present evidence in the case. The prosecutor will ask questions
of the witness and the court will then allow the defense
to cross-examine the witness. The defense may question the
witness and enter evidence as to this witness' testimony.
The prosecutor may then ask follow-up questions in redirect
examination of the witness. When the prosecutor is finished
with this process for all witnesses, the prosecutor rests
Defense Case-in-Chief: The
defendant presents their case in the same manner as the prosecutor
did above or the defendant may choose not to present a case
or testify. The defendant would then rest.
Arguments: Both parties may give brief closing statements
designed to help the court make its decision in the case.
decides the sentence?
If the defendant is found guilty in a case, the Judge then
decides what sentence is appropriate. This may include
time in jail, fines, probation or other sanctions.
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