The next stage of a felony criminal or traffic case is the arraignment. It is at this hearing where the defendant is read the formal charges against him or her. The defendant must then enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If the plea is guilty, either through an agreement negotiated by the defendant’s attorney with the prosecutor, or a blind plea, the judge will admonish the defendant about the rights he or she is giving up by pleading guilty. The defendant will then either be sentenced on this date if a pretrial investigation is waived, or the case will be continued for sentencing.
More often than not at this stage the plea the defendant will enter will be not guilty. If that is the case, the defendant’s attorney will make a motion for discovery. This is a motion for the prosecution to tender all evidence that they anticipate using at trial as well as any other relevant evidence. For example, if the defendant is charged with a aggravated DUI, he or she is going to want to make a motion for, among other things, all police reports generated, a copy of the log sheet for the breathalyzer used by the police, a copy of any audio or video recordings of the alleged erratic driving or of the defendant performing field sobriety tests, any medical reports concerning the defendant’s blood or urine that was tested, and possibly a copy of any 911 calls made concerning the defendant’s driving.
The prosecution will also make a motion for discovery asking for any evidence the defense intends to use in their defense. The case will then generally be continued for a status hearing so that the defense attorney and the defendant can review the prosecution’s evidence and make a more informed decision about whether to proceed to trial or to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
The defense attorney will also file an answer following the arraignment in which the defendant admits or denies all allegations laid out in the information or indictment. If the defendant is going to raise any affirmative defenses, such as self defense, alibi, or necessity, it must be raised in his or her answer.
Eventually after discovery is complete, the case will be set down for a bench or jury trial or a plea of guilty.