Most people have heard the term arraignment used in reference to someone who was just arrested for a crime, but what happens during an arraignment isn’t often discussed. The arraignment is an accused’s first step in the criminal justice system, and while the exact procedure can vary depending on the court and the charges the general purposes of an arraignment remain the same.
Appearance Before the Court
Once someone has been arrested their first appearance before the court is for the arraignment. The time between arrest and arraignment is small, as the Michigan Court Rules state that an arrested individual must be brought before the court “without unnecessary delay.” The appearance for an arraignment can be made either in court or through the use of two-way interactive video technology from a prison or jail.
General Arraignment Procedure
The procedures for an arraignment depend in part on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or felony, but the main purpose remains the same regardless of the charges. The goals of an arraignment are:
- Informing the defendant of the charges against them, along with the potential criminal penalties that they face.
- Informing the defendant of their rights, including the right to a trial, the right to an attorney, and the right to have an attorney appointed if they are unable to afford one.
- Obtaining a plea from the defendant. Depending on the type of charge a defendant can plead guilty, not guilty, nolo contendere, or stand mute. In the cases where a defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere at the arraignment the court can also sentence the defendant.
- Setting the terms and conditions of the defendant’s pretrial release, such as a release on personal recognizance or the setting of a bail amount. Pretrial release can be denied altogether if the defendant is accused of certain offenses.
Waiver of Arraignment
In some cases, it is possible for a defendant charged with a misdemeanor to bypass the arraignment process by filing a waiver of arraignment with the court. The waiver states that the defendant and their attorney understand the substance of the charges, the defendant waives arraignment in open court and either pleads not guilty or stands mute to the charges. The availability of waiving arraignment depends on the court and the type of charge that the defendant is facing. Waiver of arraignment is not generally available if you are charged with a felony.
What Happens After the Arraignment?
The next step for a defendant depends on whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. If the charge is a misdemeanor, the case will be scheduled for a pretrial conference where the defense meets with the prosecutor to discuss if the case will go to trial or possible plea bargains.
If the charge is a felony, Michigan Court Rules require the date for a preliminary examination to be set during the arraignment. The preliminary examination is a contested hearing for the court to determine if probable cause exists for the offense charged. If the court finds probable cause does not exist it has the option to dismiss the charge.
How a Detroit Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
An arraignment is the first stage in a potentially long process to resolve the criminal charge against you. You aren’t required to have an attorney during the arraignment, but it is very important to have an experienced Detroit criminal defense lawyer to provide you with guidance every step of the way.
If you or someone you know has been arrested, contact Michigan criminal defense attorney Maurice Davis right away. Attorney Davis has worked both as a prosecutor and as a defense attorney and his experience can help you to understand exactly what to expect during your arraignment.