Chris Soules, the former star of The Bachelor, filed paperwork in court today, pleading not guilty in the hit-and-run case that has been creating headlines. Soules also waived his right to an arraignment in open court and requested that a trial date be set, citing his rights to a fair and speedy trial.
As was previously reported by the Inquisitr, Soules was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident - a felony in the state of Iowa. Soules was not charged with a DUI, despite the presence of open containers in his vehicle.
According to Soules and his legal defense team, the former Bachelor star is innocent. They lay this claim of innocence on the 911 call that immediately followed the accident. According to a statement released, Soules was the one to call 911, identify himself and attempt to resuscitate the victim, remaining on scene until paramedics arrived.
The crux of the state's legal argument then hinges on the wording of the relevant Iowa State Code, 321.263. The code states that if the accident results in the death of a person, all surviving drivers (Soules) must remain at the scene, and before leaving, they have to leave their driver's license, automobile registration, or some other identification at the scene.
What Does Waiving an Arraignment Mean?In Iowa, an arraignment is a formal hearing in court that allows the defendant to enter a plea of guilty or not-guilty. It also lets the court formally let the defendant know about their rights and to confirm that the person being charged understands what it means for them to plea guilty, not-guilty, or nolo contendere.
A nolo contendere plea is similar to a plea of guilty, but differs in two important ways. First, the plea cannot be used against a defendant in any future civil action, like a lawsuit. Secondly, the plea is not admitting guilt, it is admitting that the state has enough evidence to secure a conviction.
When Chris Soules waived his right to an arraignment in open court, he was only saying that he understands his rights and what it means to plead not-guilty. His rights and obligations were likely explained to him by his lawyer, so there was no need for Soules to appear in open court. It also spared Soules from being exposed to what surely would have been a media circus at an open court appearance.
What Happens Next?The next step in the criminal process, according to Iowa's Rules of Criminal Procedure, is the setting of a court date. According to the official rules, this date must be announced within the next seven days, with copies filed with Soules' attorney, the prosecution, and the clerk of courts. Because this isn't a sex-based offense as laid out under Iowa Code sections 709.2, 709.3, 709.4, or 726.2, the trial date could be set several months in the future.
In the time between now and the actual trial date, expect several motions to be filed on both sides of the docket. These may be motions to suppress evidence or requests for discovery. The defense may even request a change in venue. A change in venue is when the defense or prosecution doesn't feel that the local jury pool will allow them to get a fair trial. This may be due to the amount of press coverage that the case has gotten, or because the defendant is especially well liked or held in high regard locally. The defense has already spoken about getting a gag order issued to prevent what they see as further misinformation spreading before Soules can go to trial. Soules' lawyers already filed a motion to dismiss the charges, but that motion was likely denied by the court, based on the arraignment proceedings.
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