Sunday, February 22, 2009

What Happens in Court at a Criminal Arraignment?

From an article on the web... for link click here.
By Steve Thompson

Arraignment is one of the lesser-understood portions of the criminal court process,
and is necessary to establish the identity of a defendant and to determine a plea. Each state handles criminal arraignment differently, but there are a few things that remain the same no matter where you live.

The most important thing to remember is that criminal arraignment is a court appearance, and should be treated as such.When you appear in court at a criminal arraignment, you will be taken in front of a judge. You have the option to request legal counsel at that time, either in the form of a private attorney or as a public defender.

You can also waive your right to counsel if you prefer to represent yourself, but this isn't advisable. Not only are you entering a plea, but you will also be given a bail amount.When you first stand in front of the judge in court at a criminal arraignment, you will be asked to verify who you are. This is to ensure that there are no mistakes in the identity of a defendant, and to avoid such defenses later at trial.

You may be asked to provide photo identification for the court, or your word may be taken at face-value.In some states, the judge will take the time at a criminal arraignment to explain the charges against the defendant. If this is the case, he or she may also state the possible punishment, such as the maximum fine or jail sentence.

In other states, the defendant is simply handed a statement that has been prepared by the prosecutor, and outlines the charges and the reasons for their existence.You will also be asked to enter a plea at criminal arraignment, which will be put on the record. It is not advisable to enter a guilty plea in court at this time because, even if you intend to plead guilty, you may be able to receive a reduced charge as a result of a plea agreement with the prosecutor. However, you do have the choice to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or, in some states, no contest.Once you have entered a plea, your defense attorney (or you) and the prosecutor will be allowed to make recommendations as to the bail amount.

The judge can do one of three things: set a bail amount, release the defendant on his own recognizance, or deny bail entirely. In most states, remand (bail denial) is reserved only for first-degree murder charges, and only non-violent offenders are released on their own recognizance (ROR).The final court business at a criminal arraignment is the scheduling of future trials and hearings. For misdemeanors and other smaller crimes, the trial date may be set at this time, and you'll be told to appear whenever the court fits you in.

For felony charges, however, a preliminary hearing is usually scheduled, but not the actual trial date. The trial will not commence until after discover, jury selection and motion hearings.
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