What Happens at the Arraignment in a California Criminal Case?

March 31, 2023

In California, the arraignment is the first formal court appearance for a criminal defendant after they have been arrested and charged with a crime. During the arraignment, the defendant is informed of the charges against them, advised of their rights, and given the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The process is governed by the California Penal Code and the California Rules of Court.

The arraignment is typically held within 48 hours of the defendant’s arrest, excluding weekends and holidays. During this time, the defendant will be held in custody, and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to them by the court.

The first step of the arraignment is the reading of the charges against the defendant. The judge or the clerk of the court will read the complaint, which is the document that outlines the charges against the defendant. The defendant will then be advised of their constitutional rights, which include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a fair trial.

After the charges have been read and the defendant’s rights have been advised, the defendant will be asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A guilty plea means that the defendant admits to committing the crime and accepts the punishment for it. A not guilty plea means that the defendant denies committing the crime. A no-contest plea, also known as a nolo contendere plea, means that the defendant does not admit guilt but also does not contest the charges against them.

If the defendant pleads guilty or no-contest, the judge will typically sentence the defendant on the spot. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the judge will set a date for the next court appearance, which is typically a pretrial conference or a preliminary hearing.

After the plea is entered, the judge will also address the issue of bail or release on their own recognizance (OR). Bail is a sum of money that the defendant must pay to secure their release from custody before trial. Release on own recognizance means that the defendant is released without bail but must agree to certain conditions, such as surrendering their passport or staying away from certain individuals. The judge will typically consider factors such as the defendant’s criminal history, the severity of the charges, and the defendant’s ties to the community when deciding whether to grant bail or release on their own recognizance.

If the defendant is unable to pay the bail, they may also be eligible for a bail bond. A bail bond is a contract between the defendant and a bail bond agent, who agrees to pay the bail in exchange for a fee, usually 10% of the bail amount.

It is important to note that the arraignment is a critical stage in the criminal justice process, and defendants should be fully informed of their rights and the charges against them. The defendant’s attorney will play an important role in this process, providing legal advice, representing the defendant’s interests in court, and ensuring that the defendant’s rights are protected.

Attorney John D. Rogers is an Orange County criminal defense attorney. He is a board-certified criminal law specialist by the State Bar of California. His office is located in Newport Beach, CA and he represents clients throughout Southern California in state and federal matters. If you’re seeking legal representation, give the Law Offices of John D. Rogers a call to schedule a free consultation.

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