An arraignment is typically your first court hearing after you are arrested for a crime. It may occur the same day or the day after you are arrested and is an essential part of the criminal court process. At this time, you must enter an initial plea, be informed of your right to an attorney and learn whether or not you may be released from jail by posting bail. If you are denied bail or it will take you time to obtain a bail bond, then you may return to jail after your arraignment.
What Is the Process of an Arraignment?
Once you are arrested for a crime, such as a DUI, you will be taken to a local police station. At this point, an officer can decide to release you or book you into jail. If the police do not want to pursue it, you may be released. In terms of a DUI, you may be let go if your blood alcohol test comes back under the legal limit. You also may be released and given a court summons to return for an arraignment at a later date. For a DUI, the police may choose to release you to a sober driver. For more serious offenses, like a DUI-related car accident, you will be booked into jail. Your arraignment will be soon after, and the police will escort you from the jail to the hearing.
However, the arraignment process may differ for felony offenses. A formal arraignment takes place after charges are filed against you. In many cases, the prosecutor files charges against you, although federal court and some states require a grand jury indictment for felonies. If you are arrested for a felony offense, you may need to wait for your arraignment until after a grand jury decides whether or not to charge you.
Arraignments are relatively quick. You will mostly listen to the judge and say very little. However, it is an important hearing. The judge determines whether you are going to be released from jail or held in jail until your trial.
The judge has the option to release you on your own recognizance, meaning the court trusts you to appear in court for your pre-trial hearings and trial. More likely though, the judge will say you may be released on bail, which means you pay a certain amount of money to be released. If you fail to show up to court in the future, this payment is forfeited to the court. In some states, you may be able to obtain a bail bond from a private bail bondsman. If you are denied bail, cannot afford the bail amount or need time to obtain the money for bail, then you will be taken to jail after the arraignment.
Read More: What Is an Arraignment Hearing?
Do You Have to Enter a Plea at an Arraignment?
At the arraignment, you will be informed of the specific charges against you. The court will then ask you to enter a plea, either guilty or not guilty. Almost everyone says "not guilty" because it provides time to speak with an attorney and decide the best thing to do. However, what you plead is entirely up to you.
The court also will inform you of your right to an attorney. If you do not have an attorney and cannot afford one, you may ask the court to assign you a public defender.
How Long Does it Take to Go to Trial After Arraignment?
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants you the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay. This is often called the right to a speedy trial, yet what constitutes “speedy” depends on the situation and the court rules relevant to your location.
Most jurisdictions have timelines for when pre-trial hearings and trial must be set. Iin federal court, if you are in jail, your preliminary hearing must be scheduled within 14 days, for example. If you are released on bail, then your initial appearance must be scheduled within 21 days.
The discovery process, pre-trial motions and jury selection can take weeks or months. Your case may go to trial within a few weeks of your arraignment. If you are part of a serious or complex case, it may take months before a trial is scheduled.
You can go to jail after an arraignment if you are denied bail, unable to post bail or need time to obtain a bail bond.
Victoria E. Langley is a legal content writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She holds a B.A. in philosophy from Northern Illinois University and a J.D. from the John Marshall Law School of Chicago. She has worked as a clerk for a boutique law firm handling breach of contract litigation, a corporate document reviewer, and a legal counselor for a transactional law clinic. She now focuses on translating legalese into everyday language for firms around the country. Her work has appeared on the U.S. News Law Directory and many law firm's sites. Learn more from her website, langleylegalwriter.com