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What is an Arraignment?

In the criminal justice system we have what is called the arraignment, which is a criminal proceeding where the defendant appears in court, before a judge and is officially informed of their charges.

Generally, the arraignment takes place within 48 hours of a defendant’s arrest, with the exclusion of weekends and holidays. At the arraignment the defendant is asked whether they are pleading guilty or not guilty.

You’ve probably seen arraignments depicted on television and film where the judge asks the defendant standing before him, “How do you plea to the charge?” and the defendant responds with “guilty” or “not guilty.”

Each jurisdiction handles arraignments differently, but some courts set bail for defendants or release them on their own recognizance during the arraignment.

Primary Purpose of the Arraignment

When someone is arrested for a crime, they have a right to know the nature of their charges and they should not languish in jail for days or weeks on end without knowing what they are being charged with, therefore, the main purpose of the arraignment is to officially inform the defendant of his or her charges and take their plea (guilty or not guilty).

During the arraignment, the judge may also:

  • Appoint a public defender to defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney. If a defendant does not qualify (their income is too high) for a public defender, they may need more time to hire a defense lawyer, so the judge may continue (delay) the arraignment so the defendant can hire private counsel.
  • Defendants can ask for a bail hearing even if bail has already been set. For example, defendants can ask for bail to be reduced or converted to O.R. release.
  • Defense attorneys can use the arraignment to raise legal concerns for the judge to review in the future. For example, the defense can argue that the accused did not commit a crime at all. In effect, the defense can set dates for the judge to hear future pretrial motions during the arraignment.

The above is a basic summary of the arraignment. For further information about Texas’ arraignments, you can check out the Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 26.

For defense representation in Plano and Dallas, contact The Zendeh Del Law Firm, PLLC!