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Do I Need a Lawyer for Arraignment in Colorado?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP November 17, 2021

You’ve probably heard it said many times if you watch TV: if you get arrested, you are entitled to an attorney, even if you cannot afford one. At what point in the process is a lawyer necessary? Should you hire one right away? If you aren’t familiar with the criminal justice system, you might not even know that there are many other court proceedings that take place before a trial will occur. One of those hearings is called an arraignment. 

What is Arraignment?

An arraignment is usually one of the first hearings that takes place after you’ve been arrested and charged with a crime in Colorado. You as the defendant are required to be at this hearing if you are charged with a felony. If you are charged only with misdemeanors, it might be possible for your attorney to appear without you if the court grants that request. The charges against you will be read aloud, and you will have the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. After this, the judge will schedule your case for another hearing, usually a pre-trial conference or a preliminary hearing.

Why You Need a Lawyer for Arraignment 

While an arraignment may not sound like the most important hearing you will be facing, its outcome is crucial. This is one of the first places where you get to hear the official charges against you, and you must decide if you are going to plead guilty or not guilty. Your arraignment may be held within days or weeks of your initial arrest, which should give you the opportunity to speak with a lawyer before the arraignment. 

Having an attorney early on in the process gives your lawyer as much time as possible to start requesting discovery, filing motions, and reviewing your case. If you wait until after the arraignment, your attorney has less time to review and prepare your case, which will put you at a significant disadvantage. Having a lawyer right away, at or before the arraignment, also gives you an opportunity to discuss your case with your attorney immediately. This allows you to give them the best information possible, as everything will be fresh in your memory. It will help you and your attorney prepare the best possible defense.

If nothing else, having a lawyer at arraignment can put you at ease, especially if you’ve never been involved in the criminal justice system before. Just knowing you have someone on your side can be very helpful. 

How Should I Plead at Arraignment? 

Most people will plead not guilty at the arraignment. This doesn’t mean you can’t later change your plea and accept a plea bargain from the district attorney. Without a lawyer, you might think it’s a good idea to plead guilty when it’s not, or you might feel overwhelmed by your circumstances and just not know what to do. There is always something important to discuss with your attorney regarding the charges, so it’s critical to have a Boulder criminal defense attorney with you at this hearing.