When you come face to face with the law, it can be a bit scary. With big terms like misdemeanors being thrown around, you may be a little confused about what’s happening. Here are four things you should know about being charged with your first misdemeanor.

You’ll Be Scheduled An Arraignment

Your misdemeanor will be given in the form of a citation or complaint. Both will state the time and date that you’ll need to appear at the county courthouse. This initial court appearance is considered an arraignment. During this appearance, you’ll be informed of your rights, the charges that have been placed against you, and the possible penalties that you’re facing. It is important that you make it to this scheduled hearing and that you get there on time. Failing to do so can force you to face even more consequences.

You Have The Right To Counsel

When you’re present at your arraignment hearing, the judge will ask you if you want to have legal representation. You can hire your own criminal defense lawyer to defend your case. If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may ask for a court-appointed lawyer. However, it’s important to realize that this is only an option if you’re facing jail time. In addition, you may have to pay back the lawyer depending on your financial situation. Talk to a few different lawyers to find the one best suited to take on your specific case.

You Can Plead Guilty Or Not Guilty

At your arraignment appearance, you’ll be given the option of pleading guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, the judge will ask if you would like a jury or court trial. In a court trial, the information is given to a judge and they make a judgment on the case. If you choose a jury trial, then six members of your local community will be called to hear your case. It’s important to realize that your court case will be scheduled for a different day. If you plead guilty, you may be given your sentence at arraignment or at a later date set by the judge. Regardless of what you choose to plead, you may not find out the verdict right away and might have to wait for additional court dates.

Penalties Range

When it comes to your first misdemeanor, there are various penalties that you can be given. At the very least, the judge or jury can give you no penalty. However, it’s more likely that you’ll be given something. You may be given a fine without incarceration, probation, or incarceration. Most states have a maximum incarceration period of up to one year in a local jail, but the penalty will be entirely dependent on the specific crime you committed and what your plea is.

Being charged with a misdemeanor can be very overwhelming. By doing the research and learning the facts above, you can help to put your mind at ease. Realize that misdemeanors are treated differently depending on what state you’re in. Talk to a criminal defense lawyer to help you with your case.