What is an arraignment? The oft-used term among legal minds can be quite confusing to individuals outside the realm of law. The irony lies in the fact that those who commit crimes or violate rules are likely not in the legal field and are subject to this term without knowledge of its meaning.
An arraignment is the defendant’s first appearance in court, where the judge tells the defendant his charges, his constitutional rights, and his right to an attorney. At arraignment, the defendant will generally enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. A guilty plea is an admission to the crime and allows the judge to enter a conviction into the court record. A not guilty plea is a denial of the commission of the crime, and forces the hand of the prosecutorial body to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the offense.
If a defendant is in custody up until the time of arraignment, the judge will release the defendant under the premise that the defendant return for his scheduled court date. This is called being released on one’s “own recognizance.” The judge may also send the defendant back to jail until bail is posted, or the judge can refuse bail and send the defendant back to jail. Bail is money or property that acts as collateral to ensure the defendant returns to court on the specified date. The amount is determined by the judge based on the defendant’s risk to the community, risk to run away (also called a “flight risk”), or based on the seriousness of the alleged crime.
If the offense requires jail until arraignment, the arraignment must occur within 48 hours of the arrest. Any unreasonable delay may warrant damages for the defendant, but likely will not result in a dismissal of the case unless he can prove he was deprived of a fair trial or suffered injury or prejudice.
For the most part, arraignments require the defendant’s presence, whether physically or via video technology, for felony charges. For misdemeanor charges, often an attorney may appear on the defendant’s behalf.
The completion of the arraignment hearing funnels the case toward trial.
If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, or their professional license is at risk, contact Attorney Miranda McCroskey for an immediate consultation at (714) 389-2257 or email her at email@example.com.
Miranda is a partner at Wilson Harvey Browndorf in Irvine, heading the criminal defense department.