What to Expect at an Arraignment

Kelsey L. Affronte Edmonds Lawyer

As a former prosecutor, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide context about what to expect at an arraignment hearing. This is the first hearing after a defendant has been charged with a crime. Arraignments are extremely formulaic – the defendant is informed of the charges against them, receives a trial date, and the prosecutor may request bail or conditions of release.

Arraignments can occur both in and out of custody. For example, Domestic Violence offenses are crimes that require a mandatory arrest. If an individual is arrested for a Domestic Violence crime, they will likely be arraigned in custody.

When a defendant appears at an arraignment, the Court will confirm their name and date of birth. This confirms the defendant’s identity and that the right person is associated with the criminal charge and will be fingerprinted for the same.

Then, the Court will ask if the person would like the Information (the charging document, similar to a complaint) read to them or if they will waive a formal reading. Most defendants acknowledge they have received and reviewed the complaint and do not ask to have it read to them by the judge.

The Court will then list the charges and ask how the defendant will plead. A defendant rarely pleads guilty at an arraignment; instead, nearly all defendants plead not guilty. This is because most defendants have not yet received discovery and evidence that support the claim that the defendant committed the crime(s). Most defense attorneys want to review this information before making a strategic decision on how to proceed.

Next, the prosecutor will argue why the defendant should have to post bail (meaning they are requesting the person be taken into or remain in custody). A legal threshold must be met for the court to impose bail. Examples include that the person committed a violent crime and/or has a history of committing violent or similar offenses, the person has a history of failing to appear at court (i.e., a history of bench warrants), and a lack of significant ties to the community.

The defendant’s attorney will argue for the defendant’s release or, in specific circumstances, agree to bail being set. Some defense attorneys will agree to bail being set so that their client can start to earn credit towards their sentence. Other defense attorneys will reserve their argument on bail to bring a motion with additional information when they are more familiar with their client and the discovery.

From there, the judge will decide on bail. If the Court sets bail, the defendant will get a trial date within 60 days. If the Court does not set bail, the defendant will get a trial date within 90 days. These are the time limits set for speedy trial.

The prosecutor will also request conditions of release. These are pre-trial conditions that a defendant must maintain to remain out of custody. Violating these conditions gives the prosecutor an argument for why bail should be imposed. 

Examples of pre-trial conditions of release are below:

  • In a case where the defendant is charged with Driving Under the Influence, the prosecutor will likely request that the defendant not: commit any new crimes, drive without a valid license and insurance, drive without an Ignition Interlock Device, drive under the influence, nor consume any alcohol or drugs. The prosecutor may request an alcohol and drug monitoring bracelet.
  • In domestic violence cases, the prosecutor will likely request a Protection Order, restraining the defendant from contacting the alleged victim, that the defendant not commit any crimes, and that the defendant not perform any assaulting or harassing behavior.

As I stated above, arraignments are formulaic and procedural. There is little opportunity to make significant legal arguments, and there is very limited time on the Court’s calendar. These arraignments move quickly and are one of the first steps in a criminal case.

To learn more about What to Expect at an Arraignment, please contact Beresford Booth at info@beresfordlaw.com or by phone at (425) 776-4100.

BERESFORD BOOTH has made this content available to the general public for informational purposes only. The information on this site is not intended to convey legal opinions or legal advice.