Arraignment Hearing Explained
he Arraignment on a Criminal Complaint is the defendant's first appearance in front of a judge. In cases involving only Misdemeanor Offenses, most of the time an attorney can appear for you without your physical presence. In cases involving Felony Offenses, the defendant's physical presence is required. If the defendant is in custody, the San Diego Sheriff will produce him or her for the hearing.
Purpose of Arraignment
The purpose of an Arraignment, according to Penal Code § 988, is for reading the "accusatory pleading to the defendant ... and asking the defendant whether the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty to the accusatory pleading." The purpose of the arraignment is to inform the defendant of the charges against him/her, to inform the defendant of his/her constitutional rights, and for the defendant to enter a plea to the charges of Guilty or Not Guilty.
There are a few options at this stage. The first is to plead guilty. This is often not the best course of action for a few reasons: overcharging and strategically.
When you were arrested you were done so by someone in a law enforcement agency. That agency sends over the evidence, police reports, witness statements and recommended charges to the District Attorneys Office. The facts are skewed and the prosecutor filing charges does not give the defendant the benefit-of-doubt. Additionally, the prosecutor does not review any evidence obtained by the defense at this stage in the case. Undoubtedly, the truthfulness of victim and police allegations have not been determined at this stage.
The laws of California provide that a Criminal Defendant's guilt be proven by "proof beyond reasonable doubt". This concept and various other legal protections provide protections against a police state or government.
Setting Future Court Dates
The arraignment also functions as a calendaring hearing for future court dates. Future court dates include: trial (misdemeanor cases) readiness conferences, preliminary hearing and a bail review hearing.
The arraignment is also the hearing where the first decision on bail is made. Your attorney is going to have to make an argument for your custody status during the pendency of the case. If is important that you have an attorney who is skilled at pursuading judges to lower bail or release you on your own recognizance.
At the arraignment, a judge has a lot of options as to a defendant's custody status. The judge can do any of the following.
- Remand the Defendant Without Bail - This is when the judge says no amount of bail will due. Defendant is to remain in custody while the case goes through the system
- Set Bail - This is when the judge sets an amount of money that will be held in trust securing that the defendant will show up for future dates on his or her case. If bail is set, the defendant will be released if he or she posts cash bail or purchases a bail bond.
- Own Recognizance Release ("OR" Release) - This is where the judge allows the defendant to get out of custody without having to post bail.
Juvenile cases differ substantially. If your case is a juvenile case, call us now and we can discuss the custody issues for you or your child.
When & Where is The Arraignment?
One of the first issues to resolve is when and where your arraignment is located. Most of the time the paperwork you receive from the Sheriff or your Bail Agent includes the court address, department and time of the arraignment.
It is imperative that you retain the documents when you are released from custody. A failure to appear at the arraignment will result in the court issuing an immediate bench warrant and the prosecution filing additional charges for the failure to appear.
If you do not know when your court hearing is scheduled, visit the nearest court and speak with a clerk. With your date of birth and name, they can find when your hearing is scheduled.
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