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What Is an Arraignment?

By: Greg Hill & Associates

An arraignment is a criminal proceeding where the defendant is called before a court, informed of the charges, and asked to enter a plea.

If you have never been arrested, you might not understand the point of an arraignment hearing. So why is this type of hearing important?

Here are some of the reasons why the State might hold an arraignment:

  • An arraignment was extremely important earlier in time because of the lack of most defendants’ ability to read. During the arraignment hearing the District Attorney would read the charges to the defendant so he understood what he was being charged with and could, in response, decide if he needed to hire an attorney, gather up witnesses and other evidence or simply plead guilty.
  • This process helps to ensure all defendants have appointed an attorney and are prepared before trial. It also gives you the right to discovery of documents in the possession of the prosecution and allows an attorney to advise their client on what to expect going forward.
  • During an arraignment, the prosecution may decide if they are going to try your case or not. If you plead guilty during the arraignment then you are sentenced and there is no need for a trial, but if you plead not guilty, further hearings to allow preparation for trial will be set.
  • After the date of the arraignment you have ten days to file motions unless the judge gives you more time, which also makes having an attorney important. We usually extend this time period at the arraignment for you, as we want you to have time to review and comment upon the police report, the complaint and all other materials the DA or City Prosecutor may provide at the arraignment.

While the whole process of an arraignment hearing may seem rather unimportant, it is an extremely critical process and is not to be taken lightly. It is often where first impressions are made and the prosecution reveals its attitude about the seriousness of the charges, a likely plea bargain and the character of the defendant.