Whereas a preliminary hearing is the first formal court proceeding in a criminal case, an arraignment is the first formal court appearance in a criminal case. For this reason, an arraignment is also referred to as a “first appearance.” After a defendant is arrested and charged with a crime, he or she is then transported to the local jail and booked into custody. After booking, the defendant is scheduled for a bond or bail hearing, which is typically required by law to occur within 72 hours of the arrest. Following the bond or bail hearing, the defendant will be scheduled for arraignment.
What is the purpose of an arraignment? The primary purpose of an arraignment is to advise the defendant of the criminal charges against him or her. The judge who conducts the arraignment will read the charges to the defendant in open court. Additionally, the judge will ensure that the defendant has an attorney. In the event that the defendant is unable to afford an attorney, arrangements will be made to have an attorney appointed to assist the defendant. The defendant will also be asked to enter a plea of “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest” to the charges. The arraignment also provides the judge an opportunity to reconsider the amount of bond or bail. Finally, the judge will set dates for upcoming court appearances including preliminary hearing, pretrial motions hearing, pretrial conference and calendar call.
Acquiring Legal Counsel
Do I have the right to an attorney at an arraignment? Yes. If ever you are facing charges that carry potential jail time, you have the right to the assistance of an attorney. The assistance of an attorney is especially important in a criminal case because an attorney can advise you of possible defenses such as self-defense, alibi and misidentification. Additionally, an attorney will be able to challenge the evidence against you and possibly even have inadmissible evidence thrown out of court. Finally, an attorney will be able to develop a legal strategy for your case including plea negotiations, trial tactics and appeal procedures. Many judges will not allow a defendant to enter a guilty plea at arraignment without at least consulting with an attorney.
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