What to Expect During an Arraignment

After someone has been charged with a crime, a process is set in motion. The government has several obligations they have to meet. Many of these obligations are addressed during a hearing that is known as the arraignment. Here are four things defendants should expect going into arraignment.

Reading of the Charges

This is the first time you'll be told what offenses the state believes you've committed. A judge will ask you if you understand what the charges are and if you have any questions.

Arrangement of Counsel

The next thing the judge will want to know is if you will have legal counsel representing you. If you've hired a criminal defense attorney, they will introduce themselves to the court.

Folks who don't have an attorney present or can't afford one will be appointed an attorney by the court. This individual is usually from the public defender's office or pulled from a pool of attorneys who have pro bono obligations or who are available near the courthouse. In a few instances, the judge may pick one from the local legal bar. For example, this may occur if a conflict of interest exists with all of the available public defenders.


Next, defendants are asked how they plead. At this stage, your criminal defense attorney will likely have you plead "not guilty." This is sometimes the case even if your eventual goal is to plead guilty. By pleading not guilty, you'll be granted a continuance and have an opportunity to dissect the case against you.


The court will determine whether the defendant needs to post bail or be held pending trial. Attorneys for the prosecution bear the burden of proving that there's a good reason to hold you if they so desire it. Common reasons to not grant bail include flight risks, suicide concerns, or worries that the defendant is a threat to the public. Bail may also be denied if there's a strong chance you'll simply go out and commit the same crime again.

If the court rules to set bail, then it may be set at this time. Notably, some courts do bail hearings sooner than the arraignment. However, the court will almost always revisit bail requirements during the arraignment. Any conduct that might violate your bail agreement may be grounds for you to stay in jail until the trial is concluded.

Your criminal law attorney will walk through the disposition with you and help you understand the courts decisions. To learn more about how a lawyer can help you, reach out to a criminal law attorney near you.