Criminal Defense: What Is Arraignment?
What is Arraignment- General
Arraignment is the first time you will appear in front of a judge and will plead either guilty or not guilty. If you have not hired an attorney, the court will advise you of your right to hire one, or to have one appointed if you cannot afford one. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint the Public Defender to represent you. Some judges will play on the fact that some people do not afford one. You need to know your right to have one appointed and tell the judge that you want a lawyer but can’t afford to pay. The court will make you fill out a financial declaration stating your lack of ability to pay for an attorney.
In most cases, the discovery is handed over to your attorney at the arraignment date, and not before. If the discovery is not available, your attorney will request to continue the arraignment until the DA can provide the discovery. Keep in mind that the initial discovery usually consists of basic information, and is not complete. You attorney will file a discovery request to complete their file. They will also do investigation on their own to see if there is more information to be discovered.
What is Arraignment- Misdemeanor
If you were arrested for a misdemeanor, the District Attorney’s office has up to 1 year to file charges. This means that your arraignment must be within 1 year of the arrest date. Misdemeanor arraignments allow you to plead guilty or not guilty. Sometimes the DA will give you an offer at the arraignment and allow you to dispose of your case then and there. This is not advisable, as you haven’t had a chance to review the discovery yet. But, some people who are charged with crimes like simple possession or DUI feel they have no defenses and want to just get it over with and plead there. Again, this is not advisable, as there are always defenses to be made. A good attorney will look over the facts of your specific case and come up with ideas on how to fight the charges.
What is Arraignment- Felony
For a felony arraignment, the process is the same. You are brought before the court and advised of your rights to counsel and a jury. You will either plead guilty or not guilty. If you plead not guilty, pre-trial dates will be set. It is never advisable to plead guilty at arraignment, as you and/or your lawyer have not yet had a chance to go over the discovery.
Arraignment on a felony case where the person has not bailed out must be within 48 hours of the arrest, excluding weekends and court holidays. Any violation of this could result in a case dismissal. If you were arrested for a bailable offense, and bail has not yet been set, the judge will also order a bail hearing to determine the amount of bail. If you were arrested for a felony, and there was no arrest warrant, then you have a right to an arraignment within 48 hours. This includes weekends and holidays.
Contact the Law Office of Stephanie M. Arrache, a criminal defense firm, if you want to know more about the arraignment process.
Law Office of Stephanie M. Arrache
A Criminal Defense Firm
PO Box 3297
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Office: (760) 237-8295
Cell: (760) 668-8295