What is a Criminal Arraignment? (and How a Great Lawyer Can Help)

A defendant charged with a felony or misdemeanor must be arraigned at the beginning a criminal case. The arraigning magistrate or judge will tell the accused what he is accused of and then set a bond. A bond can require a deposit of money for the defendant to stay out of jail. The 8th Amendment to the Constitution states that “excessive bail ought not be required.” The defendant must be present in court or be “virtually” present by way of live video stream.

The arraignment has several purposes: Notify defendants of the charges against them, allow defendants the opportunity to enter a plea, provide the judge the opportunity to set a bond, and allow defendants the opportunity to request a court appointed attorney if they cannot afford to hire a privately retained attorney.

An Attorney Has the Best Chance at Getting a Personal Bond

With regard to bonds, a judge has several options. A judge may set a “personal bond,” which has a dollar amount to be forfeited if the defendant fails to return to court. No money is posted for a personal bond, it is more of a promise to come back to court. Alternatively, the court may set a bond which requires the defendant or someone on his behalf to deposit an amount of money with the court. The court may require a “cash” bond, in which case the entire amount of the bond must be deposited with the court. The third option is a “10%” bond. In such case, if the bond is $5,000.00, 10%, someone will have to deposit at least $500.00 with the court. The last type of bond that may be set is a “surety” bond, whereby a licensed bondsman posts the bond and usually charges the defendant a 10% fee.

Entering a Plea at the Arraignment

The judge will then ask the defendant how he or she pleads. The choices are: Guilty, Not Guilty, No Contest, or the defendant “stand mute,” in which case the judge will enter a Not Guilty plea on the defendant’s behalf. Generally, the defendant will want to “stand mute” and let the judge enter a not guilty plea on his or her behalf. The plea can always be changed without any problem at a later date.

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It is Important to Have an Attorney at the Arraignment

As you might imagine, the bond amount and type of bond is the most important issue in the life of a defendant at that time. The amount and type of bond will determine whether the defendant regains his freedom on that date, or remains in jail. It is extremely important to have a privately retained attorney present.

Having a privately retained attorney will show the judge that the defendant is serious about confronting the case. No one would hire an attorney if they planned to flee from the court’s jurisdiction and not return to court. When a judge sees a retained attorney at a defendant’s side, it will have the effect of leading the judge to setting a lower bond.

An experienced attorney has the training and ability to speak to the court regarding reasons why a bond should be a personal bond or a low bond. A great attorney knows exactly what to say to the court and how to say it. Without a lawyer, a defendant may say something that actually hurts his own best interests relative to bond. Having a trained attorney make the argument will have the effect of influencing the judge to set a personal or lower bond.

At the arraignment, an attorney will have a hand in setting the first court date in the case. An attorney will see to it that a first court date is set so that he or she will have time to obtain the police reports and any other evidence the prosecutor has so that he or she will be able to be fully prepared at the next court date. Having the time to strategize and prepare will put the attorney is a strong position when discussing the case with a prosecutor. A court appointed lawyer never has the opportunity to get records before the first court date following the arraignment.

Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys

Having the Best Criminal Defense Attorney Possible at Arraignment is Critical

As can be seen above, there are many important reasons to have a retained attorney at a defendant’s side during an arraignment. Aside from the “nuts and bolt” reasons discussed above, from a purely human perspective, it is also important to have a retained attorney present because, by their very presence, he or she will naturally lend a sense of comfort and peace of mind to a person who truly needs it.

Call LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. today for a free consultation at (248) 263-6800 or complete a Request for Assistance Form and we will promptly contact you. Do not go to your arraignment alone and give us the chance to help you understand how having us by your side can help turn the tables in your favor.

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