What is Arraignment?

An arraignment is the process where the defendant formally hears the criminal charges and has an opportunity to enter a plea (e.g., guilty, not guilty, no contest, etc.). In Los Angeles County it is one of the first stages of the criminal process. Arraignment is usually the first time a defendant is brought before a judge, informed of his or her rights, and given an opportunity to admit or deny the charges.

It is also the time when the prosecutor’s charging document is filed with the court. The charging document is technically called a “complaint,” “information,” or “indictment,” depending on the type of case. The document will lay out the crimes that the prosecutor says the defendant committed.

How is Bail Set?

The judge typically sets bail at an arraignment. There are a lot of specifics about how the bail amount is determined and what an attorney can do to potentially lower or eliminate the bail. Learn more at the Spolin Law P.C. Complete Guide to Bail.

When Does The Arraignment Occur?

Arraignment usually occurs after the defendant has been arrested. When a defendant is kept in custody after being arrested, the arraignment must occur within 48 hours of the arrest. The 48-hour period does not include weekends or holidays, however, so a Friday arrest can result in a long period of jail time before arraignment, as can any arrest during or directly before a major holiday.

Do You Need To Be Present At Your Arraignment?

If you are charged with a felony you generally have to be physically present at arraignment. If you are charged with a misdemeanor you generally do not have to be present if you have an attorney who can appear on your behalf. Nonetheless, a judge can still order your appearance on a misdemeanor case. If you are not released after your arrest, you will be present at your arraignment because the officers will bring you to your arraignment while in custody.

What Happens At Arraignment?

During arraignment, the judge, a clerk of the judge, or a prosecutor will read the charging document out loud. The judge will try to determine the defendant’s true name, in case he or she was arrested under an incorrect name. The judge will also advise the defendant of his or her rights, as determined by the US and California constitutions and California law. The defendant will then have the opportunity to enter his or her plea (including guilty, not guilty, no contest, or similar plea).

Finally, the judge will decide whether the defendant has to be in jail while the case progresses or whether the defendant can be free during the course of the case. Judges frequently set a “bail” amount, which means that the defendant will be kept in jail unless he or she deposits the bail money to the court. That money is returned to the defendant (or whoever paid it) at the conclusion of the case as long as the defendant showed up for all mandatory court dates.

What Happens After Arraignment?

At the end of the arraignment, the judge will set a schedule for the case. Dates for pre-trial motions and hearings will be set. A motion is a legal request by one of the lawyers for a certain action, like a defense lawyer’s motion to suppress evidence or dismiss the case. The trial date can also be set at arraignment. If the judge sets a bail amount, the defendant will be given a chance to pay the bail after arraignment.

What Difference Does a Good Lawyer Make At Arraignment?

The quality of your attorney can have a significant impact on the arraignment. This is in great part because of the attorney’s role in the bail argument. During arraignment, the judge will decide whether to keep the defendant in jail until the case is over or release the defendant for the duration of the case. A judge can also set a huge bail amount (e.g., $1,000,000 bail), which effectively means that the defendant will stay in jail for the entire case.

An experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney will more likely be able to make strong arguments to the judge regarding release and bail. If your attorney is able to argue for a low bail amount, this can be the difference between months in jail before trial versus months living free and fighting the charges from the outside.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from an attorney or staff member today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.