by Contributor

(Dec. 9, 2020) — The arraignment process is usually a defendant’s first appearance in court following a criminal citation or arrest. Here’s what to expect.

For individuals who have been charged with criminal offenses, the judge states these charges formally against the defendant during an arraignment. In the majority of states, courts could likewise decide during an arraignment whether or not the defendant would be released while awaiting trial.

Certain states also combine arraignment with a bail hearing. However, it is usually performed after determining bail. While the specific arraignment rules and processes vary from one jurisdiction to the next, here is what you can generally expect during an arraignment.

The Arraignment Process in a Nutshell

  • This court proceeding is the first step in courtroom-based criminal processes. It follows the defendant’s arrest, booking, and first stages of bail. In the arraignment, the defendant will stand before the judge who will:
  • Inform the defendant of the criminal charges against them.
  • Ask if the defendant whether they have a lawyer or requires help from a court-appointment lawyer.
  • Ask how the defendant pleads to all the charges against them, whether they plead no contest, not guilty, or guilty.
  • If the judge allows the defendant to post bail or bonds, the defendant should post bonds money with the Summit County court as a condition of their release while awaiting the case’s conclusion.
  • Decide whether or not to modify the amount of bail or release the defendant, provided that they follow specific instructions for temporary release.
  • Inform all relevant parties of when future proceedings will occur, including the pretrial motions, initial hearings, and trial.

If the charges against a defendant change, the court would need to arraign the defendant again, which could happen at any time after the previous arraignment. For instance, in lots of cases, a defendant with felony charges will be arraigned again following the preliminary hearing once the court decides to elevate or modify the existing charges in some way.

It’s also crucial to note that defendants facing the possibility of imprisonment if found guilty for the charges have the constitutional right to legal counsel. However, if a defendant can’t afford legal counsel, the court can appoint a lawyer for free.

Arraignment Procedures Differ from State to State

As mentioned above, the specific procedures and rules for arraignment differ from one state to another. For example, certain states require legal counsel and/or require that defendants be informed of particular rights. Likewise, some states require that defendants held in custody should be arraigned within a day of their arrest, either through a live video feed or in person.

Additionally, other states discuss release and bail during arraignment proceedings, and defendants with misdemeanor charges can opt to have their lawyer represent them during the arraignment. Defendants charged with felonies, however, should appear in person.

Overall, as with all matters that concern criminal law, being fully aware of your available options and ensuring that you’re sufficiently protected usually requires seeking advice from seasoned lawyers. An experienced criminal attorney could help you avoid jail time, guide you through all the proceedings, and advise you on relevant laws specific to your case.

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