After the prosecution has decided to charge you with a crime, you will be brought before a court in a hearing called an arraignment.  This is the beginning of formal court proceedings against you and several rights may attach once you have been arraigned, including the right to reasonable bail.

ARRAIGNMENT

This is the first appearance in court on a criminal charge. An arraignment is the time you will be formally advised of the exact charges against you and your statutory and constitutional rights. The offense can be an infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony.

There is no evidence or witnesses presented at the arraignment. The arraignment is the time in the case when the accused will be advised of the charges against him/her and advised of constitutional and statutory rights. New dates are set for future hearings.

Arraignments are essentially the same for infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies.  The only distinction is that for felonies, a defendant may be arraigned twice: their initial arraignment will be in an inferior court, but they may be arraigned again in superior court after a preliminary hearing bind over.

Entry of Plea

At the time of the arraignment you will be asked by the court to enter a plea to the charges. At that time, your choices are guilty, not guilty, no contest, or you can request a continuance to retain a lawyer. In most cases it is not a wise decision to enter a plea until you have retained legal counsel to advise you.

At the arraignment, you will be asked, “how do you plead?” If you have counsel, your attorney will enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf. (Note: Even if you think you are guilty of the crime charged, it is most prudent to enter a plea of not guilty or just continue your arraignment so you can review all the evidence against you and give your attorney an opportunity to discuss your case with the prosecutor at a subsequent hearing date). If you do not have counsel at the arraignment, you will have to enter the plea of not guilty or seek a continuance of your arraignment to afford yourself an opportunity to review the evidence and secure counsel to represent you at the next hearing date.

It is unwise to enter a not guilty plea until your lawyer has had a chance to speak to the prosecutor and the judge in detail about your case.  Your lawyer may also decide that they wish to file a demurrer to the criminal charges and that cannot be done if you enter a not guilty plea.

Bail Setting at Arraignment

After a plea is entered at the arraignment, the court will normally address the issue of bail. For the purpose of setting bail the court must presume the defendant is guilty of the charges. Read below for a discussion of the bail process and why you should have an experienced criminal defense attorney represent you prior to the initial bail hearing.

BAIL HEARING

At the arraignment or soon thereafter, if you are in custody and charged with a criminal offense, you have a right to reasonable bail. That right includes your right to ask the court to lower the bail at a “bail hearing” or a “bail review.” Many courts do allow a bail hearing at the arraignment while others require your attorney to file a formal motion and give the prosecutor notice of your intent to seek a bail reduction. In those situations, the bail hearing would be conducted on a date past the arraignment.

For compassionate and zealous legal representation you can trust during a difficult time in your life, don’t hesitate to call Pamela DiBello for help. With her experience and skills as a seasoned criminal defense attorney, you can rest assured that your case is in excellent hands. Contact Pamela DiBello today for a consultation to go over the facts of your case in detail and to learn more about mounting a strong defense. Call now at 909-576-8036 or email: idefendu@dibellolawfirm.com