An arraignment is when you appear in front of a judge to hear the charges against you and tell the court whether you plead guilty or not guilty. If you decide to plead guilty the judge will ask you a lot of questions to make sure you understand your rights and that you are giving up those rights when you plead guilty. If you decide to plead NOT guilty, you will be given another date to come back to court. If you plead NOT guilty, you should not be found guilty without a trial.
AUDIO: Taking a plea
What is an ACD?
An adjournment in contemplation of dismissal is also known as an ACD. It is an offer to dismiss your case if you succeed in not getting in trouble with the law for six months, or maybe up to one whole year. If you stay out of trouble, the charge will be dismissed and your record will be closed and sealed. An ACD can also impose specific conditions such as community service or drug rehabilitation.
A status conference is a court date where the judge finds out from the lawyers what is happening in the case. Your lawyer may be filing motions to keep out statements you made or evidence the police got. Or the court may be asking the prosecutor if they are ready for trial. YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP TO EVERY COURT DATE SET IN YOUR CASE ON TIME OR A BENCH WARRANT MAY BE ISSUED, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU GET PICKED UP BY THE COPS YOU WILL BE TAKEN IN TO APPEAR IN COURT ON THE CHARGES AGAINST YOU.
AUDIO: Motions to dismiss on speedy trial grounds.
Assistant District Attorney or D.A.: This is the lawyer for the government who is responsible for proving the charges against you. They can also offer you a plea bargain. Also known as the prosecutor.
Defense counsel: This is an attorney who represents you and helps you defend against the charges brought by the government. A defense attorney can be appointed or retained. If you can't afford to hire an attorney, you have the right to have one provided ("appointed") by the court. This will either be a Legal Aid attorney or an "18(b)" attorney, a private attorney hired by the court to represent you. If you hire your own attorney, they will be "retained."
Judge: The judge is the person who decides whether there is enough evidence against you to go ahead with the charges. The judge can also decide to dismiss the charges as "facially insufficient," which means there isn't enough information to support the charges. The judge can also dismiss charges against you "in the interests of justice." The judge also decides if:
IF YOU ARE 15 YEARS OLD OR UNDER, YOU ARE CONSIDERED A JUVENILE. You should not be taken to adult criminal court, you should be brought to family court. Your case falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Youth and Family Justice (DYFJ) (formerly Department of Juvenile Justice).
But, if you are between the ages of 13 and 15 you can still be sent to adult court if you are designated a JO (Juvenile Offender) based on the severity of the crime they say you committed (usually murder).
If you are 15 years old or under, at arrest, you can be: