Arraignment in Hillsborough County
After the arrest, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, FL, takes twenty-one (21) days to decide whether to proceed with the prosecution. During that time, the prosecutor can file the same charges listed in the criminal report affidavit or arrest warrant, or the prosecutor can file more serious charges, less serious charges, or no charges at all.
If the prosecutor formally files any charge, then you will receive notice from the clerk’s office about the arraignment hearing. In most cases, the prosecutor files an “information” that operates as the charging document. For misdemeanor traffic cases, the uniform traffic citation acts as the charging document.
The arraignment is your opportunity to enter a “not guilty” plea to the charge so that your attorney has time to fight the case and help you resolve the case on the best possible terms.
The notice of the arraignment will tell you the charges pending against you, the case number, and the division in which the case is assigned. If you know the division in which the case is assigned, then you can determine which judge in Hillsborough County will preside over the case.
The notice will tell you to report for the arraignment to a specific courtroom in Tampa or Plant City, FL, on a specific date and time.
What happens at the arraignment hearing in Hillsborough County, FL? At the arraignment, the court will do the following:
- advise you of the charge pending against you;
- ask you whether you want to represent yourself, ask for a public defender to be appointed to represent you, or hire a private attorney at your own expense; and
- if you choose to represent yourself, allow you to enter a “guilty” or “no contest” plea.
As a practical matter, few people enter a plea at arraignment, especially for anything other than the least serious types of misdemeanor charges.
Attorney for Arraignment Hearings in Tampa, FL
If you plan on retaining a private attorney to represent you on the case, you should hire the attorney prior to arraignment. Before the arraignment, your attorney can file the initial pleadings and preserve any objection to the legal sufficiency of the charging document.
The notice of arraignment tells you that if you are represented by an attorney, you should contact your attorney regarding the notice.
If you hire a private attorney before the arraignment, then the attorney will typically file all of the initial pleadings including a written plea of not guilty. A private attorney can also waive your appearance at the arraignment so that you do not have to appear.
If your private attorney doesn’t waive your appearance, then you must appear. If you fail to appear as required by the court notice, then the court will issue a warrant for your arrest or your Release-On-Recognizance (ROR) will be revoked or your surety or cash bond will be estreated.
The arraignment usually occurs after the arrest and first appearance. But for a direct file arraignment in Hillsborough County, the arraignment is the first court date.
Don’t face the judge alone. For a felony or misdemeanor case, contact an attorney at Sammis Law Firm about representing you at the first appearance hearing or any upcoming arraignment hearing.
What Happens at the Arraignment in Hillsborough County, FL?
At the arraignment in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, FL, you will be formally advised of the charges filed by the State. You will also be informed of the right to be represented by an attorney.
If you are unable to afford a private criminal defense attorney but wishes to be represented by counsel, then the judge may appoint an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office in Tampa, FL.
If you have already hired a private criminal defense attorney, then the attorney might appear on your behalf. The private attorney might make the following announcement:
“Your Honor, my name is [name of attorneny]. I represent [name of the Defendant] who is present [or who has been excused from appearing]. I am in receipt of an information charging document filed on [date]. On behalf of [the Defendant], we are entering a “not guilty” plea as to each charge and reserve the right to attach the legal sufficiency of the charging document at a later date.”
For an arraignment on a felony charge, the judge will rarely accept a “guilty” or “no contest” plea at arraignment. Instead, the court will announce a date for a disposition date.
For a misdemeanor arraignment, the judge might agree to accept a plea of “guilty” or “no contest.” If you enter such a plea without an attorney, the judge might be in a position to impose the sentence immediately. In most cases, however, the court might encourage you to speak with a private attorney or public defender before accepting the plea.
If the victim appears at arraignment and makes their presence known, then the victim might also be given a chance to address the court regarding restitution and sentencing.
If the defendant requests a trial, then the court might set a bench or jury trial date.
This article was last updated on Friday, July 16, 2021.