( For reference, here is my original post: http://www.expertlaw.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11099 )
So I had my arraignment this week. I was beyond nervous. First time doing anything bad and I got caught - of course I totally deserved it. What I did was wrong and no one should feel that stealing is okay. I hope that our stories can prevent future acts of crime and possibly even prevent them from happening in the first place.
On to my story...
I walked into the courthouse and went through the metal detector and found the courtroom. I was really early so there weren't a lot of people in the courthouse. When I got upstairs, there were already a few people waiting outside in the hallway. I didn't know what to do, but the door to the courtroom wasn't open so I just sat down along with the others.
At around 8:15am the bailiff came out from the courtroom and posted a list of all the defendent's names - a roll call of sorts.
A few of the people seemed like return visitors, they were discussing their cases and knew that the roll call sheet was coming up.
I went over and checked that indeed my name was listed and sat back down.
At 8:30am the courtroom doors opened and we all took seats.
The judge explained how the process would work:
He would call out a few letters of the alphabet, A-E for example, and those people with last names starting with those letters were to stand up and file single line towards the podium. The person would then tell the Bailiff their last name and he would call out the name for the judge to find their case.
When it came time to tell the Bailiff my name, I had an eery sense of calm. I had already prayed about my situation and had accepted that I was indeed guilty and that I was ready for whatever punishment awaited me. I could only pray for strength and bravery to get through what awaited me.
The judge was very articulate, professional but also comforting and friendly. I recognized that this man does this every day, it's just a job for him; similar to a doctor who sees patients every day. It gave me some peace to know that I was not a unique snowflake, I was just another (unfortunate) face for him.
A lot of people were there for possession of illegal fireworks (most of them got 10-30 days county jail or work project), a few minors with alcohol possessions (they got their licenses revoked for a year plus about $600 in fines), an embezzelment (30 days county jail or work project) and quite a few with marijuana possession charges (can't remember their bargains).
The judge told me what my charge was and what the maximum penalty was for it (again refer to my original post above).
Then he asked the district attorneys (there were 4 or 5 of them, a totally intimidating presence but it's warranted) what bargain they had for me.
The DA stated: "10 days county jail or DEJ (Deferred Entry of Judgement)"
The judge explained that I would have 3 years of informal probation, I would have to abide all laws and that I would receive 10 days county jail time. But that I could accept the DEJ and as long as I complete it by December 1st, my case would be dismissed.
He then asked me if I wanted to accept the bargain and I said yes.
He then asked me if I understood my constitutional rights and what I was doing and I said yes.
He then read my charge back out to me, and asked what my plea was and I said guilty.
I had to get my thumbs fingerprinted by the bailiff (digital scan) and then had to fill out a form for the DEJ information to be mailed to me. The DEJ information consists of a videotape, workbook and some pamphlets, costing about $120 of which I paid right away. I would have to watch the video, fill out the workbook and certify mail it back to them at least 3 weeks before the due date (December 1). Then I would get a certificate stating that I fulfilled the DEJ program obligation and they would file paperwork dismissing my case.
I totally got lucky since this was my first offense and the amount stolen was small.
I am thankful for my outcome. I sort of appreciate that this happened to me because I now have learned that my life is precious and that we should not take 1 day for granted, and that everything you say and everything you do MATTERS in the long run.
Hope you can learn something from my experience.
Thanks for reading and for all of your help,