Stages Of A Criminal Case Arraignment

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The arraignment is the fourth stage of a case after the arrest, booking, and initial bail. During a typical arraignment, the person who has been charged with a crime is called before a criminal court judge. Usually the arraignment will be the first proceeding to take place in a courtroom. Therefore, the suspect is now considered a defendant. An arraignment is the reading of the criminal charge or charges against this defendant.

The courtroom judge will read the charges against the defendant. The judge will also ask the defendant questions, particularly regarding the appointment of an attorney. In most cases, if the defendant stands the chance of facing a jail sentence for his or her crimes, and cannot afford an attorney, a government-appointed attorney may be assigned to the defendant. The defendant will not be required to pay for the attorney's services in this situation. This is referred to as the defendant's right to counsel. Usually the attorney in this case is a public defender.

During an arraignment, the judge will ask how he or she answers. A defendant can plead "guilty," "not guilty," or "no contest" to the charges brought against them. If a "not guilty" plea is entered by the defendant, the judge overseeing the arraignment will set a date for the defendant's trial and in some cases, the date for the preliminary hearing or pretrial motions.

The court is not always allowed to accept a guilty plea from the defendant during an arraignment. If the court does accept a guilty plea in a more serious crime, a hearing will still follow at a later date. During this hearing, the judge will assess the severity of the crime, taking into consideration other factors regarding the crime and the defendant. During the defendants' arraignment, the judge may decide to alter the previous bail amount based on his or her own recognizance.

If the crime is considered minor and the defendant pleads guilty, sentencing may follow directly.

If the suspect fails to appear at his or her arraignment, other criminal charges may result and fines may be assessed. In some circumstances, especially as regards more serious crimes, an arrest warrant may be issued by the judge or by another authorized individual.

In some situations, a suspect may be held in jail on undecided charges. In this case, the arraignment occurs within two days. During the arraignment there must be sufficient evidence presented to display probable cause for the criminal charge.

The Judge will then announce the scheduled dates for the future proceedings. These include the preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, and trial.

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