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Arraignment & Arrest Charges Explained

An arraignment is when the court formally presents a criminal defendant with the charges against him or her.

He or she is then asked to enter a plea in response. In many states, the court may also make a decision as to whether or not the defendant will be set free with bail before their trial. Some states arraign the defendant in both felony and misdemeanor cases. However, other states arraign the defendant only in felony cases.

When is the Arraignment?

The arraignment must happen within a reasonable period of the arrest. If this is not the case, then a defendant’s right to a speedy trial is violated. If a defendant is given a criminal complaint without arraignment or the arraignment is delayed by many months or years, then the defendant’s attorney can ask that the charges be dismissed. The judge in the case must do a review and decide whether the delay was reasonable or not.

The Arraignment Process

The arraignment process varies from state to state. In some states, the defendant is advised of various constitutional rights. These may include the right to counsel, the right to trial, and the right against self-incrimination. In some locales, defendants are advised of their rights in a group before they make their appearance before the judge. In some places, the defendant has a constitutional right to representation at their arraignment. This representation can come in the form of a self-chosen counsel or a public defender.

The next step in the process is the presentation of the charges against the defendant. In some locations, barring the waiving of their right, the judge must read the complaint against them. They also have the right to receive a copy of the said charges.

The Plea

After the court has advised the defendant of the charges against him or her, it will ask them what their plea is to those charges. The defendant can plead, guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

Not Guilty – It’s best for the defendant to plead not guilty. A not guilty plea forces the prosecutor to make a case against him or her. The prosecutor must gather evidence against the defendant and the defense takes the opportunity to review the case as well.

Guilty – When the defendant pleads guilty to a small crime at the arraignment, the judge may produce the sentence at that time. The prosecutor and the defense attorney may negotiate the sentence. In more serious cases, the judge will schedule a sentencing hearing.

No Contest – When the defendant pleads no contest, the defendant agrees that the prosecutor has the ability to prove their guilt but does not admit guilt. When the defendant enters this kind of plea, the judge acts as if the defendant pleaded guilty.

Setting Conditions of Release

In some places, the arraignment contains the conditions of release. This means that the court decides to release the defendant before trial. Different conditions are taken into consideration, such as:

Is the defendant a danger to the community?

What is the defendant’s criminal record?

Does the defendant have a record of failing to appear before court?

The court may decide in favor of one of the following conditions of release:

Release on the Defendant’s Own Recognizance – This means that the defendant is released on the basis of a promise that they will appear before the court on the charges. This is usually done if the charges are not that serious or the defendant has a small record of criminal defenses.

Bond or Bail – This happens when the judge requires that the defendant post a certain amount of money to insure that they will appear. After the case is completed, the money is refunded.

Other Conditions – When the defendant is released on their own recognizance, the court can require other conditions of release as well. These may include no contact with the witnesses and no new arrests. If the defendant violates these conditions, they can be held without bond.

Supervised Release – This is where the court sets up a program of supervision while the defendant awaits trial. They may be required to report to an officer and to fulfill any conditions that that officer sets.

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