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FAQ: What Is An Arraignment?

Posted by Unknown | Apr 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

An "arraignment" is a proceeding in a criminal case that occurs in district court. If you've been charged with a felony by a Complaint, this is the first time you'll be in district court in your case. You will be assigned to a "different" judge than the magistrate who was the judge in your initial appearance and preliminary hearing. A magistrate judge can't be a trial judge in a felony, only a district judge has that authority.

The right to counsel exists at this stage of the case and, thus, your attorney will be there (if you can't afford to hire an attorney, one should have been appointed for you...if not, ask the Judge to appoint you one). The arraignment must occur within 30 days of the filing of the Criminal Information (that's the document that is filed by the prosecution when they "win" at the preliminary hearing and probable cause is found). You'll be given a copy of the Information (or Indictment) at this hearing, which is held in open court. The court is supposed to read, word-for-word, the Information (or Indictment). Instead of having the clerk read the Information (or Indictment) word-for-word, if you've gone over the document with your attorney and understand it, the formal reading can be "waived." You'll will be asked if the name on the Information (or Indictment) your "true name" and, if it is not, you'll have to tell the Judge what's incorrect. You'll also be asked if your birthdate and the last 4 digits of your social security number are correct.

At the arraignment, you'll  be asked to enter a plea. If you need more time to make the decision how to plead, the court must give you a reasonable amount of time (not less than 1 day). In my experience, judges allow up to 2 weeks. If more time to decide what plea to enter is asked for at the arraignment, the case will be set for an "entry of plea" at a later date. In any event, when it comes time to enter a plea, you have 3 choices: (1) Not Guilty; (2) Guilty; or (3) Stand Silent. If you stand silent, the judge will enter a not guilty plea and the matter will be placed on the trial calendar. 

By having the matter placed on the trial calendar, typically 3 dates are given: (1) discovery cut-off; (2) pretrial conference; and (3) jury trial. Some judges stick a "status conference" on the calendar prior to the pretrial conference.

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