Shortly after you're arrested or charged with a specific crime, you have your first appearance in front of a judge for something called an arraignment. The arraignment is in place for you to formally enter your plea and receive judgment based on the plea you enter. At the arraignment, you also negotiate your release from custody so that you can continue to work, care for dependents, and go about your normal business in the months leading up to further court appearances. In order to ensure you appear at future court proceedings, the judge sets bail.
You might not feel like you need a lawyer for your arraignment; after all, it's not a trial, and you can enter your plea yourself. However, having a lawyer with you at your arraignment is important because your lawyer can help you get more favorable terms for your release and help argue for reduced bail amounts.
Here's how a lawyer can help.
1. Argue for your risk against the law.
One of the reasons for bail is to make sure that you don't run out of town to escape punishment for the crime you're accused of committing. Your judge helps to plead your case for why your bail doesn't need to be very high (or why it should be waved entirely) by reviewing the risk of your personal history and circumstances.
For example, if you are the sole provider for a child who attends school in the area, if you hold a steady job, or if you have other strong community ties, these are things that lower your flight risk in the eyes of the law. If you have never committed a crime before, you are also at a reduced risk for running away. If you have some less serious criminal history but you have shown up to all of your court dates on time in the past, this record helps to convince a judge to possibly reduce or waive bail.
2. Reduce the financial strain on your family, especially for all-cash bail requirements.
Some judges require bail to be all cash, or they require bonds that are higher than you could ever afford to pay on a loan. People often put their homes or other large assets up for collateral in order to post bail, and all of these can place a financial strain on the family, especially if your finances are already tight. If you can't afford your bail, you have to remain imprisoned until your trial, which can further complicate your finances, since you can work while incarcerated.
If your lawyer can argue for a lower bail amount, convince the judge to accept bonds instead of cash or offer alternatives to bail, you are less likely to end up in a position where your lack of bail keeps you from being released.
3. Ask for your case to be dismissed or charged at a lesser severity.
Finally, even though you were arrested and charged with a specific crime, you might not actually keep those charges. Your lawyer can review the facts of your case in the arraignment, bringing up some evidence and the facts of your personal history to have the charge reduced or waived. You might even plead guilty to the charges based on your lawyer's recommendation for light sentencing to avoid the legal costs of a full criminal trial. Lighter charges mean less bail or even no bail since some bail amounts are predetermined by the criminal code.
Negotiating your sentence is tough to do without good legal representation, so contact an attorney, such as Raymond Martinez Attorney at Law, as soon as you are able to do so.