What is Arraignment?

An arraignment is usually a defendant's first court appearance in front of a judge and the prosecutor. The main purpose of the arraignment is to inform the defendant of the criminal charges against him or her. At this first court appearance, the defendant (or his or her attorney) enters a plea of "Guilty" or "Not Guilty." Typically, the defendant pleads "Not Guilty" to begin defending the case. At the arraignment the defendant's attorney will be given the criminal complaint with the police report.

what happens in an arraignmenT? 

During an arraignment, a defendant appears before a court to formally hear the charges brought against them and to enter their plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest). Here's what typically happens during an arraignment:

  • Courtroom Proceedings: The defendant is brought before a judge in a courtroom. The judge ensures that the defendant understands their rights, including the right to legal counsel.
  • Reading of the Charges: The prosecuting attorney or clerk reads aloud the charges filed against the defendant. This includes specifying the specific laws the defendant is accused of violating.
  • Explanation of Rights: The judge explains the defendant's constitutional rights, such as the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a trial by jury.
  • Discussion of Legal Representation: If the defendant doesn't have an attorney, the judge asks if they would like to hire one or if they would like a court-appointed attorney if eligible.
  • Plea Options: The judge asks the defendant to enter their plea. They can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest (nolo contendere). If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, the case may proceed to sentencing. If they plead not guilty, the case will move forward to the next stage of the legal process.
  • Setting Conditions of Release: If the defendant is in custody, the judge may address bail or other conditions for release pending trial.
  • Scheduling Future Court Dates: If the defendant enters a not guilty plea, the judge will set dates for future court proceedings, such as pre-trial hearings or trial dates.

Arraignment: Misdemeanor Vs. Felony

After the plea is entered, the court schedules a new court date. If the criminal charges are misdemeanors, a pretrial conference date is set usually about 30 days after the arraignment. If the criminal charges are felonies, under California law, a preliminary hearing is scheduled within 10 court days of the arraignment, unless the defendant waives time (right to a speedy preliminary hearing) and the preliminary hearing is set beyond the 10 court days.

Bail During the Arraignment

Bail is addressed at the arraignment. If the bail is set too high, an attorney may argue for the bail to be reduced or may request the defendant be released on his own recognizance (commonly known as "O.R.") without posting bail, if the defendant is in custody on the arraignment date.

Written Waivers During Arraignment

Defendants are required to appear at their arraignment in felony cases unless a written waiver according to Penal Code section 997(b) is accepted by the court. It is a rare situation where the court accepts written waivers in felony cases. In misdemeanor cases, a defendant may have his or her attorney appear in his or her place, under Penal Code section 977(a). Misdemeanor cases involving domestic violence and protective order violations are excepted from "977 authority," and usually require a defendant's personal court appearance.

If you need assistance with an arraignment or a criminal case, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to learn about your rights, defenses, and legal options. Call us today! 

  • ABA
  • BAR
  • CACI
  • Maba Logo
  • super lawyer

Client Reviews

  • God Bless you Stephen, wish you all the successes in life.

    “Stephen is a great contact and extremely helpful and knowledgeable. I am glad that I was his client in the past. Top lawyer, top man. God Bless you Stephen, wish you all the successes in life.”

  • Don't hesitate to contact them!

    “I was referred to this group of Attorneys. I was started with a low cost made arrangements. My case had to do with assault allegations. The case was dismissed they helped me not to loose my daughter to the system.”