Many people might not know that in Michigan, as well as most other states, defendants are not required to have an attorney during their first court appearance. Defendants will very often go into their arraignment hearings without representation of any kind. It is important for the accused, especially those individuals who are facing possible prison sentences, to build a strong criminal defense from the very beginning.
In one instance, a local judge recalled an arraignment where a man without representation pleaded guilty even though the judge suspected that he was not. When the defendant was asked why he pleaded guilty, he replied that he believed that was how the system worked. He believed that it was best to plead guilty and move on.
All defendants have the right to representation according to the Sixth Amendment. However, many people are forced to wait for months for an attorney, or they have an overburdened attorney who does not have the time to build a proper defense. Some states, including Michigan, are trying to implement programs that allow more defendants to have legal representation at their first court appearances.
Defendants who are trying to build a strong criminal defense can benefit from seeking the advice of a professional early on in the proceedings. An attorney will be able to explain all of the options available to the defendant before he or she decides to plead guilty or not guilty. Attorneys may also be able to give the defendant an idea of what he or she might expect after the plea is entered and how best to proceed.
Source: theatlantic.com, "When Does the Right to an Attorney Kick In?", Maura Ewing, Sep. 15, 2017