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What Does Felony Arraignment Mean?

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You have been arrested and taken to jail.

You want to know what happens now.

For those who may not be familiar with the process, let’s take a look at exactly what will happen.

This will not erase the charges, but at least it will give you a good idea of exactly what will happen from this point.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • What Does Arraignment Mean?
  • What is a Felony Arraignment?
  • When Does An Arraignment Occur?
  • What Can Happen at an Arraignment?
  • What Happens After a Felony Arraignment?
  • How to Prepare for an Arraignment


What Does Arraignment Mean?

An arraignment is the first court date someone will face after being arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime.

At this hearing, you will be formally advised of all charges by a judge and will enter a plea to those charges. 

You may have heard of a preliminary hearing, which is not the same as an arraignment.

Don’t get confused between the two.

During a preliminary hearing, the judge will determine whether there is sufficient evidence for a defendant to stand trial. 

An arraignment is different from a preliminary hearing in that at an arraignment, the judge has already decided there is enough evidence to proceed in the court.

At an arraignment, you will be informed of your constitutional rights and if you do not have an attorney, you will be informed of your right to counsel according to the Sixth Amendment.

You will typically receive a copy of the indictment of all charges against you. 

What Is a Felony Arraignment?

A felony arraignment is an arrangement that takes place in connection with a felony case.

It is one of the first steps in being charged with a felony crime.

Whether a felony arraignment is required depends on the state.

In some states, an arraignment is required in both felony and misdemeanor cases in which a prison sentence could be the result.

Other states require an arraignment only in felony cases.

A felony arraignment takes place in front of a United States magistrate.

There are three purposes for this.

First, you are told of the charges against you. 

The defendant is also assisted in making arrangements for legal counsel.

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The court then determines if you can be released on bail.

When Does An Arraignment Occur?

An arraignment takes place after you have been arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime.

This is required to take place within a reasonable amount of time, according to the Sixth Amendment.

This amendment guarantees you the right to a speedy trial.  

Of course, what is considered speedy is up to the courts to determine.

In some extreme examples, an arraignment may not be scheduled for a number of months.

In this situation, your attorney can petition the court to dismiss the charges. 

Then the judge will review the cause of the delay to decide if it was reasonable.

If the judge decides the delay was unreasonable, the charges can be dismissed.

You do not have to have an arraignment. As the defendant, you are allowed to waive the arraignment if you choose to do so.  

Before any hasty decisions, let’s look at both sides of this issue.

The benefits of an arraignment include establishing the beginning of a statute of limitations to run in your case.

This determines the start of the case. 

If you are charged for the same crime later for any reason, the statute of limitations may pass and such charges will not be allowed.

If the statute of limitations expires while your case is ongoing, you cannot be charged twice with the same crime.

You can speak with your attorney to see if it would be in your best interest to proceed with the arraignment in these circumstances.

What Can Happen at an Arraignment?

These are the steps that take place at an arraignment: 

  • You will be advised of all constitutional rights, which are similar to the Miranda rights that must be read to the accused at the time of their arrest. These rights also include the right to an attorney and the right to remain silent.
  • First, you will know what the specific charges are. Some states only require that while others require an actual indictment to be read to the defendant with details of the alleged crime with time and place along with the victim.
  • Legal counsel is important. This is the time to get an attorney. You can choose one or if you are unable to afford one, an attorney will be appointed for you. This is when your defense attorney can begin to prepare your defense.

The sooner you get an attorney, the sooner a defense can be established.

The more time an attorney has to prepare your case, the better the defense and the more likely that the defendant will have a favorable outcome.

You will be allowed to enter a plea to the charges, including pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

Your attorney often will request that you plead not guilty.

A not guilty plea puts the burden on the state to prove the accusation against the defendant.

This will allow your attorney to prepare a defense after reviewing the evidence and deciding whether the evidence presented is enough to prove you committed the crime.

Remember that a not guilty plea can be changed to a guilty plea at a later time.

If you plead guilty, a sentence may be handed down by the judge at the time of the arraignment.

For a more serious crime, a court date will be set by the judge.  

If there is a plea of no contest, you acknowledge that the prosecution has enough evidence to prove the crime, but you don’t actually admit you committed it.

Court proceedings will continue as if there was a guilty plea.

No contest may sometimes be used to get a lighter sentence as opposed to pleading guilty.

So, the favorable events that will take place at your arraignment are having the opportunity to clearly understand what the charges are against you, getting an attorney, and beginning your defense in the case.

You can also be released from jail, either with or without bail, pending the start of the trial.

Of course, the negative factor here is that you will have to stand trial.

What Happens After a Felony Arraignment?

After the arraignment, the judge will determine requirements for the defendant to be released while an investigation takes place.

You may be released on your own recognizance, granted bail, or be held until the trial begins.  

The judge will look at factors to determine any for pretrial release.

This includes whether you present a danger to the community, your previous criminal record, your connection to the community, your current employment status, and your employment history.

Also, some judges may consider whether there is a record of failing to appear in court in the past.  

After this, the judge will set a date for your next appearance.

The next date that is set may be a preliminary hearing if the case involves a felony charge, or a pretrial hearing if the charges are only a misdemeanor.

How To Prepare For an Arraignment

Now that you have been arrested, you need to prepare for your court appearance.

Of course, if possible, take the opportunity to meet with an attorney. 

That way you can understand in advance what the charges are likely to be.

Then you won’t have to wonder what you will face in court.

Take the time to educate yourself about the legal process that is ready to happen.

You can have the opportunity to speak with your attorney and go over what happened that led to your arrest, including anything that might be used as evidence against you.

You can also have the opportunity to talk with your family and friends to ensure their support.

You can let them know what is happening to help prepare them for what you and they will have to deal with.

It is always good to be prepared and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

So, what do you think about this article about what a felony arraignment is?

Have you or someone you know had a felony arraignment?

What was that like and how did he or she deal with it?

Please tell us in the comments below.

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