What Is an Arraignment Hearing?

After your arrest, the prosecution has 48 hours to file formal charges while you’re in custody. Following your arrest and the filing of your charges, the court sets a date for you to appear for your arraignment.

Your arraignment hearing is a court appearance where the judge informs you of your charges and rights and tells you they will provide you with a lawyer if you can’t afford one.

What Happens at an Arraignment Hearing in California?

During your arraignment hearing, the judge will inform you of all your constitutional rights. Aside from your right to an attorney, your rights include the following:

  • Your right against self-incrimination
  • Your right to a speedy trial
  • Your right to a trial by jury
  • Your right to produce and confront witnesses

Once the judge informs you of your rights and formal charges, you’ll enter your plea. You have three plea options: guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

  • Not Guilty – you deny committing the crime entirely
  • Guilty – you willingly accept the charges brought against you, which results in the judge convicting you
  • No Contest –carries essentially the same result as a guilty plea; however, the prosecution can’t press civil charges after the case

Can You Go to Jail at an Arraignment?

You could already be in custody at the time of your hearing. In that case, the judge ultimately determines whether you should go to jail until your court date.

They could set your bail and keep you in custody until it’s posted. In other situations, they could deny you bail altogether. The decision to deny bail depends on your flight risk and the severity of your charges. If the judge denies you bail, you will remain in custody until your court date.

Misdemeanor vs. Felony Arraignment

Misdemeanor and felony arraignments differ, specifically regarding the events following the initial arraignment.

Hearings for both misdemeanors and felonies are, for the most part, the same. A not guilty plea for a misdemeanor crime in California results in the case moving to the pretrial process.

However, in felony cases, there’s one more step between the arraignment and the pretrial process. If you plead not guilty to a felony crime, the judge holds a preliminary hearing. At this hearing, the judge reviews the evidence brought forward to decide if you should appear at trial.

If the judge decides enough evidence exists, the prosecutor files a document called “the information.” At this point, you will be arraigned again based on this information. After this, the case will move forward to discovery and the subsequent steps in the pretrial process.

Do You Need a Defense Lawyer for Arraignment?

While you always have the right to forgo private counsel, you risk doing so. A lot is decided at your arraignment, and you could end up in jail if things don’t go your way.

Your attorney understands the case against you and could advise you accordingly. If they believe the prosecution lacks evidence to convict you, they might tell you to plead not guilty, forcing the prosecution to prove your guilt at trial.

In other cases, the judge might set a ludicrous bail amount, leaving you helpless trying to find the money to get out of jail. Your attorney could argue to reduce your bail to a more reasonable number.

Aside from the practical implications of retaining a private attorney, they provide invaluable comfort in your time of need. Your future is currently in the hands of the legal system, and the only way to control the outcome of your case is to hire a defense attorney with the means to stand up for you in court and relentlessly protect your rights.

Get the Help You Need from Morris Law

Retaining a California criminal defense attorney for every step of the criminal process is vital. You don’t want to leave your life in the hands of the justice system. Attorney Seth Morris of Morris Law has extensive experience defending clients in courts throughout the Bay Area.

He has a reputation for bringing clients home to their families and won’t stop fighting for you until you receive a desirable outcome. Get your free consult today by calling 510-330-0814.