What Happens at my Arraignment for Criminal Charges?
Your arraignment is the beginning of your criminal case. In essence, the court will call your case and ask you to plead “Not Guilty” or “Guilty” to the charge(s) alleged against you. The arraignment is not the time to present arguments on the merits of your case but merely inform the court you intend to pursue a defense or fight the charges against you.
At the arraignment date, the prosecutor or court will issue your attorney the initial discovery of the case. The initial discovery consists of the arrest/investigative report(s), photographs, and your criminal record. Any additional information/discovery must be requested by your attorney via an informal request for discovery to the prosecuting agency. Additional discovery may be video or audio recordings, color photographs, search warrant affidavits, follow-up investigative reports, and statements made by witnesses.
If you cannot afford a private attorney, the court will appoint the public defender’s office to represent you. To be clear, you have a Sixth Amendment right to the appointment of an attorney but that right does not attach until your first court appearance. You are not entitled to an attorney appointed by the court during the investigation stages of the case. That includes in-person lineups and police interrogations occurring prior to your arraignment.
In a misdemeanor case, your attorney, in most instances, may appear on your behalf pursuant to Pen. Code 977. In a misdemeanor case, once your attorney pleads not guilty, you have a constitutional right to a jury trial within 45 days of your arraignment if you are “out of custody” or within 30 days if you are “in custody.” In most cases, your attorney will “waive time” and continue the case longer to gain more case discovery and prepare your defense.
However, if you have a felony offense alleged against you, your appearance is mandatory. Once you or your attorney enters a plea of not guilty, you have a constitutional right to a “Preliminary Hearing” within 10 court days and/or a right to a jury trial within 60 days of your arraignment. Like a misdemeanor, attorneys “waive time” to obtain more discovery and investigate the case further.
Sometimes there may be an issue with “bail.” Specifically, the prosecutor might allege additional charges and request a bail increase. If you suffer from multiple convictions, the court may want to schedule a bail hearing to determine whether you present a flight risk or pose a danger to society. In that instance, a bail hearing will be scheduled a few days later and the court will render a reasonable bail amount or allow you to be released on your own recognizance.
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For more information or if you suffer an arrest, contact an experienced Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers.