Understanding The Arraignment ProcessWhen someone has been accused and charged with committing an alleged crime in California, he or she will most likely be arrested. Next, he or she will begin to go through the criminal process in California. The initial bail phase then follows an arrest, as part of the process. This is then followed by the arraignment.

What Is The Arraignment?

Findlaw.com defines a California arraignment as the initial courtroom proceedings. The person charged with the crime will be asked to come before a court judge during the arraignment. Then, the judge will read the individual the charge or charges at hand. The person is then known as the “defendant” and is either provided a court-appointed attorney or is represented by a California criminal defense attorney of his or her choosing. During the arraignment, the defendant is asked if he or she would like to plead “guilty,” “not guilty,” or “no contest.” After the defendant declares this, the judge will decide on a bail amount and the dates for future court dates, which would include the preliminary hearing, pretrial and then, possibly, the trial.

Defining The Plea Options

A defendant may be overwhelmed by the plea options and may need to seek legal advice to know what plea is appropriate based on the charge or charges. If the defendant pleads “not guilty” then he or she did not commit the crime. This decision may lead to a trial, during which the prosecution will be forced to prove the guilt of the defendant. If the defendant pleads “guilty”, he or she is admitting involvement in the crime. Typically, a guilty plea leads to an immediate conviction. If the defendant decides to plead “no contest,” he or she is not in disagreement with the charge or charges.

The Judge And Bail Amount

What is bail? Bail is property or an amount of money the defendant promises in return for his or her appearance in court on all scheduled appearance dates. Once the plea is made by the defendant, the judge responds. He or she will set bail, typically, and instruct the defendant be put in jail until he or she is able to successfully post bail. The bail amount primarily is set in light of the seriousness of the crime or crimes believed to have been committed by the defendant. The judge may see fit to refuse bail, however. In this situation, the defendant is ordered to stay in jail. This decision may be made because the judge believes the defendant may be a risk to the safety of the general public. The judge also may decide to refuse bail because he or she is not confident the defendant will make the court appearances. The judge also could decide during the arraignment hearing that the defendant can be released on his or her “own recognizance.” This means the judge trusts that the defendant will show up at the court appearances.

How Is A Criminal Defense Attorney Involved In The Arraignment?

At the arraignment, a judge typically provides the defendant’s attorney with the legal documentation that was provided to him or her by the police. The documents often include the official police reports and other documents that relate to the case. The other documents may be blood, chemical or other lab tests related to drug or alcohol abuse. It is the defendant’s right to have legal representation. If he or she can’t afford to hire a skilled criminal defense attorney, an appointed attorney will be assigned to the case at no charge to the defendant. It is the responsibility of that defense attorney to protect the rights of the defendant and walk them through the rest of the criminal process in California.