Understand what an arraignment is all about

For many people, the first big moment after the arrest comes at their arraignment — when they finally set foot in a courtroom.

If your arraignment is about to be held, this is what you can expect to happen:

  1. You’ll be brought to the courtroom. If you’ve previously been given bail, you’ll have been told where and when you need to attend. If you fail to show up, the judge will immediately revoke your bail and issue a warrant for your arrest. If you’re still waiting in jail, you’ll be brought to the courtroom directly from the jail. You will likely still be in the clothing the jail issued because you won’t be seen by a jury at that time.
  2. You will learn exactly what formal charges are being brought against you. For example, if you were in a drunk driving accident, you’ll find out if you have been charged with just driving while intoxicated (DWI) or if you face additional charges, like vehicular manslaughter, child endangerment or any other possible related crimes.
  3. You’ll be asked if you have a private attorney or need a public defender. It’s possible an attorney may be appointed to act as your representative temporarily — just for the purposes of the arraignment — if you don’t have an attorney right at that moment. If so, he or she can help you decide how to plead.
  4. You’ll be asked how you plead to the charges against you. If you plead “guilty,” the case will pretty much be over — you’ll waive all your rights to a trial or defense and be scheduled for sentencing. That’s seldom a wise choice, so most people plead “not guilty.” Even if you ultimately change your plea, that gives you time to consider your options and talk to an attorney first.
  5. The issue of bail will probably be revisited and your next court date will be set. What surprises most people is that there is very little discussion about evidence and there is no opportunity to discuss any issues with the prosecutor or judge — arraignment is a fairly quick, organized and somewhat mechanical process for most cases.

Don’t try to navigate the criminal justice system without an advocate by your side. If you’d like to learn more about our firm’s approach to criminal defense, please visit our webpages on the topic.

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