If you have been charged with a crime, the first time you appear in court will be at an arraignment. At the hearing, you will learn about the charges against you and may be asked to enter a plea. The judge may also set bail or release you on your own recognizance. If you have been charged with a felony, you will likely have a second arraignment after a preliminary hearing. During any of these court processes, you have the right to be represented by counsel. It may be in your best interests to hire a lawyer immediately.
An Overview of the Arraignment
An arraignment is the critical first step in a criminal case and usually occurs shortly after an arrest. If you are in custody, the hearing will be held within 48 hours. If you are not in jail (typically in misdemeanor cases), your arraignment can be scheduled within 10 days of your arrest.
During this hearing, the judge will inform you of the charges against you and your constitutional rights. They will also let you know that you can be presented by counsel, and if you cannot afford an attorney, the court may appoint one to you.
At the arraignment, the judge may also determine whether you are eligible for pretrial release. They could let you out of custody on your own recognizance or set bail. However, if the judge considers you a danger to society or a flight risk, they might hold you without bail.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, you may also enter one of the following pleas:
- Not guilty, where you deny the charges against you.
- Guilty, where you admit to committing the offense.
- No contest, where you accept the facts of the case but are not making an admission of guilt.
Your Rights at an Arraignment
At an arraignment, you have the right to be represented by an attorney. You also have the right against self-incrimination, meaning that you cannot be made to testify or present evidence against yourself. Additionally, you are afforded the right to a speedy trial, which may be protected by having your arraignment occur soon after your arrest.
While it is recommended that you retain counsel for any legal concerns or advice, it is vital that you are also well aware of your rights to protect yourself from any potential legal repercussions.
The Legal Process After the Arraignment
The steps after the arraignment depend on the level of charge. If you were charged with a misdemeanor and pleas not guilty, your case would be set for trial. The matter will also enter the discovery phase, where the defense and prosecution exchange relevant information about the matter. Either side may also file motions with the court, such as a motion to dismiss the case or have evidence suppressed.
For felonies, the court will hold a preliminary hearing after the initial arraignment. The hearing concerns whether probable cause exists to believe that a crime was committed and that you were the one who committed it. If the evidence against you is sufficient, the prosecutor will file an information. You will be set for a second arraignment, where you can enter a plea.
After your second arraignment, the legal processes are similar to those in a misdemeanor case.
Preparing for Your Arraignment
Getting ready for your arraignment is a critical step in your case. First, collect all relevant documents and information. Then, hire a criminal defense attorney if you have not already done so. A lawyer can provide valuable guidance at every stage.
Finally, at the end of your arraignment, you should receive a copy of the charging document, called a complaint. Make sure to keep this safe, as you might need to refer to it later.
Retain Legal Counsel
Having an attorney represent you at an arraignment can be beneficial. Speaking before a judge in a courtroom on your own can be intimidating. With an experienced lawyer on your side, you can receive advice and guidance that can help relieve a lot of stress.
If you are looking for legal representation in Los Angeles, please contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP at (800) 462-7160.