Arraignment of a Criminal Defendant

An arraignment refers to a criminal defendant’s appearance in the court for the formal announcement of charges against him or her. It is typically the first court hearing of a criminal defendant before a magistrate or judge. During the arraignment, the judge may also assess whether the police had a probable cause for the defendant’s arrest. The judge may also ask the prosecutor to provide further facts supporting the arrest. If the prosecution fails to establish a probable cause, the judge will release the defendant. A good article found on Arrest & Arraignment can be found on our main criminal defense website.
In case the bail has not been set previously, it is likely to be set at the time of the arraignment itself. The bail bond is usually granted in a pre-determined amount, depending on the severity of the criminal charges. In some of the jurisdictions the initial hearing may be followed by a “formal” arraignment, which involves fixing of formal charges or indictment. The prosecutor will draft such an indictment, and the content of the indictment may be different from the charges drafted originally by the police. If you have been arrested you should always consider speaking with a criminal attorney as most offer free consultations.
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William Moore

Formal Plea of the Defendant
At the time of arraignment, a formal plea may be filed by the defendant. In the plea, the defendant may plead “guilty” to the charges or “not guilty.” In some situations, the defendant may also make a “no contest” plea. The courts will treat this plea in the same way as a “guilty” plea. In some cases, the defendant may decide to remain “mute” and the court will enter a “not guilty” plea on his or her behalf.
If the defendant enters a “not guilty” plea, the court will usually advise him of his right to a lawyer, and his right to remain silent. If the defendant cannot afford a private lawyer, he will usually have the opportunity to make a petition for an appointed lawyer. It is usually a prudent idea to consult a lawyer before deciding what kind of plea to enter before the court. A wrong decision on the plea can have serious consequences for the defendant.
Release from Prison
If the judge grants bail and the defendant posts the bail amount, he or she will be released from the prison. In exceptional cases, the defendant may be released on the basis of his or her own recognizance, which is a promise of appearing for the next hearing. In some cases, the bail may be set for a very high amount, going up to several millions of dollars. If the defendant has been accused of a serious criminal offense, he or she may be denied bail. If a defendant becomes released on bail, it becomes mandatory to attend every court hearing, failing which the court may forfeit the bail. A criminal attorney Fort Lauderdale may provide legal advice to a defendant seeking bail.
Post-arraignment Procedure
In case the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor, it may be followed by a pretrial court appearance, during which the case will be scheduled for trial. Some defendants may enter a plea at the time of pretrial. In case the defendant has been charged with a felony, but has not received an indictment from a grand jury, the next step may involve a preliminary examination. During this examination the prosecutor is required to demonstrate to a judge’s satisfaction that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the crime took place, and the defendant is the one who committed the crime. A very small amount of criminal cases actually go to trial. More information about trials for those accused of comitting crimes can be found in the article entitled Basic Stages of a Criminal Trial within our main criminal law firm website.