If you get arrested and charged with a crime, your first court appearance will be the arraignment. This initial hearing is an important step in the criminal process.
Understanding what to expect from this stage in the legal process can help you prepare before your appearance.
You hear the charges against you
The judge will read the formal charges against you to the court. They will explain the charges to you in detail so there is no confusion about the accusations and ask you if you understand them. This gives you the opportunity to seek clarification if necessary.
You will enter a plea
After the judge reads the charges, they will ask you to enter a plea. The plea is your legal response to the charges. Your options include guilty, not guilty or no contest. You should understand that your plea at the arraignment is not set in stone, and you can change it later as your case proceeds.
The judge sets your bail
A major purpose of the arraignment is for the judge to set the terms of your bail. This involves determining if you are eligible for release until your trial and if so, under what conditions, such as posting a bond. The prosecutor may argue for a substantially higher bail while you have the opportunity to argue for more lenient terms.
Your arraignment kicks off the court process after an arrest. Being prepared and knowing what to expect can help you handle this initial step smoothly as your case progresses. Since your arraignment plays such a significant part in your case, it is important that you know what to expect and how to navigate that court appearance.