What You Should Know About the Arraignment Process

Being charged with a crime is just the first step in a long process of criminal justice. As the accused, you have rights, and those should never be overlooked. The first time you’ll appear in court will be for arraignment. If you’re not sure what that is, you should speak with an attorney, though the following should help you understand the basics.


How the Meeting Goes

At the time of arraignment, you have already been arrested, booked in jail, and possibly bailed out. Now it’s time to go before a judge. The arraignment meeting goes as follows:


  1. The judge reads the criminal charges filed against you.
  2. The judge asks if you need a court-appointed attorney or if you have hired one already.
  3. The judge asks for your plea. This is when you state whether you’re guilty, not guilty or have no contest.
  4. The judge will decide if bail should be altered or if you should be released.
  5. The judge gives dates for preliminary hearings, trial and other future proceedings.


Whether You Should Have a Lawyer Present

If you plan on hiring a lawyer to help with your criminal process, you’ll want him or her at your arraignment. If you don’t have a lawyer and can’t afford one, and the judge asks if you want a court-appointed lawyer, it’s probably in your best interest to accept one. In some states, the judge would then postpone arraignment while your financial situation is given a good look and while the judge assigns you a lawyer. In other states, the judge would appoint you a lawyer on the spot.


How Laws Vary By State

It’s important you speak with an attorney before arraignment so you understand how the process works. Laws vary by state, so you may not understand how it goes where you are being charged. For example, in some states, you have to be arraigned within one day of being arrested. In other states, it could take longer. Some states allow an attorney to show up without the defendant if the charge is a misdemeanor. Other states require the defendant to be there regardless of the charge.


Getting Answers to Your Questions

Some criminal charges carry hefty consequences, so you shouldn’t ever take the situation lightly. When you’re charged with a crime and are facing your arraignment, you’ll probably want to get some questions answered. Contact a lawyer, like a criminal lawyer from Civic Center San Francisco, CA, from Hallinan Law Firm, today for those answers.