After being arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime, a person will have their first court date. This is called an arraignment, the court proceeding at which a criminal defendant is formally advised of the charges against him or her and enters a plea to the charges.
Some states require arraignments in all cases, felony and misdemeanor, in which the accused may face a jail or prison sentence. Other states require an arraignment only in felony cases.
This blog post will cover the different aspects of an arraignment.
- When Does An Arraignment Occur?
- What Happens at an Arraignment?
- What Happens at the Conclusion of an Arraignment?
- Supporting the Accused After an Arraignment
When Does an Arraignment Occur?
Following arrest, arraignment must occur within a reasonable time according to the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the defendant the right to a speedy trial. This an appearance of the accused before a judge or magistrate in open court.
In cases in which an arraignment is not set for months, the defendant’s attorney may petition the court to dismiss the charges. The judge will then review the cause of the delay to decide whether the delay was reasonable.
If it is determined to be unreasonable, the charges will be dismissed. Otherwise, an arraignment date will be set, and the legal process will proceed.
The defendant is allowed to waive arraignment, if he chooses. Since the arraignment process takes place so quickly and seems so basic, it is often assumed that it will have little impact on the defendant’s case.
There are benefits to having the arraignment. In some states, arraignment is the beginning of prosecution for determining the statute of limitations to run on the case.
Another important reason to have the arraignment is that it often will mean that an attorney will be appointed at that time. The sooner an attorney becomes involved in the case, the sooner a defensive strategy can be developed.
What Happens at an Arraignment?
The following are the steps that will take place at an arraignment.
First the defendant will be advised of their constitutional rights. A defendant’s constitutional rights are similar to the Miranda rights that must be read to the accused at the time of their arrest.
These rights include the right to counsel and the right to remain silent.
Then the defendant will be told what the charge is, such as possession of a controlled substance.
This is all that is required in some states, while in others an actual indictment or complaint must be read to the defendant giving details of the alleged crime, such as when and where the crime took place and who the victim was.
The next thing that happens is for the court to appoint an attorney, if the defendant does not already have one. Legal counsel is extremely important and this we’re affiliated with LegalMatch which can help you choose the right attorney for your situation.
At this time, the defendant will be asked to enter a plea to the charges. The defendant can plead not guilty, guilty, or no contest.
Quite often the defense attorney will instruct the accused to plead not guilty.
This requires the prosecutor to gather evidence against the defendant, giving the defense attorney the opportunity to review the evidence, investigate the case, and decide whether the evidence presented is enough to prove the defendant committed the crime.
A not guilty plea places the burden on the state to prove the accused committed the crime. A defendant can change a not guilty plea to guilty at a later time.
If a guilty plea is entered, the judge may sentence the defendant at that time, if it is a minor crime, such as disorderly conduct.
The prosecutor and defense attorney may negotiate a sentence at the time of the arraignment. If it is a more serious crime, the judge will set a date for the beginning of a trial.
If a defendant pleads no contest, they acknowledge that the prosecutor has enough evidence to prove they committed the crime, but they don’t admit that they did commit the crime.
In such circumstances, the court proceedings will continue as if they had pleaded guilty.
What Happens at the Conclusion of the Arraignment?
At this point, the judge will determine the requirements for the defendant to be released pending the ongoing investigation. They may be released on his own recognizance, some form of bail, or held until trial.
Basically, the judge will look at several factors in determining any form of pretrial release.
Among these factors are whether the defendant presents a danger to the community, his criminal record, how long they have been in the community and his ties to it, whether they is employed and his employment history, and whether they has a record of failing to appear for court.
For information on the bail process, please see the previous blog post on .
At this point, the judge will set the date for the defendant’s next appearance. That next date may be a preliminary hearing if at least one of the charges is a felony, or a pretrial hearing if the charges are a misdemeanor only.
Supporting the Accused after an Arraignment
The arraignment is actually very important. Not only is it the time when formal charges are brought and a plea entered, but it is a crucial time for the defendant and his family.
This represents the time when the family can come together to offer their support to their loved one as they goes through the legal process. It will be clear at this point the charges their family member is facing.
It will clarify the seriousness of the situation on the long legal road ahead. Encourage the accused to cooperate with their attorney in order to achieve the best possible outcome.
Have you dealt with a felony arraignment before? What advice do you have for our readers?