An arraignment is a court date where the state (prosecutor) informs you of what they are charging you with. In some cases (particularly in misdemeanor cases) the state will make a plea offer. If you choose to accept that offer, you will enter a plea of guilty or no contest and then be sentenced. If you do not plea (perhaps you do not like the plea offer, or you want an attorney to review the case) you would enter a plea of not guilty.
If you enter a plea of not guilty at arraignment you WILL NOT be punished for it. You will simply be assigned another court date (a pre-trial conference for misdemeanors, a case management for felonies). The judge will also inquire at arraignment if you plan on hiring an attorney. If not, he or she may determine if you qualify for a public defender.
Be very careful with accepting an offer at arraignment, especially if you have not yet had an attorney review your case. Prosecutors at arraignment will sometimes make low plea offers--sometimes even pre-trial intervention (PTI) offers-- on cases they know they cannot prove or they believe have serious legal problems.
If you would like an attorney from our law firm to sit down with you, review your case in detail, and answer all the questions you have, all at no cost to you, please call us at (941) 444-5128. We offer a free consultation. Also, if you choose to hire our law firm to represent you for a criminal case in Sarasota County, we will waive your appearance at arraignment—you will not have to go.