What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is your first court appearance on a criminal charge. It generally takes place the business day after the arrest.
An arraignment, in its most simple form, is the first step of a criminal prosecution where the defendant is brought before a judge to hear the changed against him as well as to enter a plea. A defendant must appear for an arraignment if he has been summoned by the court or if he was arrested for a crime. Arraignments occur one after another in an open courtroom, meaning the arraignment can happen incredibly quickly. In both federal and state court, the arraignment works in the same way. First, the court must read the charged to the defendant in open court. Second, the defendant must enter a plea to the changes. Third, the court informs the defendant of all warnings and advisories required by law and finally the court determines any conditions of the defendant’s release.
After the defendant’s name is called and he moves to the front of the court, the charges against the defendant are read. Next, the judge will ask the defendant about counsel. At this point, the defendant can either say he has already retained an attorney or plans on doing so or the defendant can ask for a state appointed attorney.
Next, the defendant is asked to enter a plea. Almost always the defendant will enter a plea of not guilty. Prior to an arraignment, the defendant usually as little to no time to conference with an attorney to determine which type of plea would be best. This means that the defendant acts wisely in entering a plea of not guilty because it allows for more time to confer with an attorney before entering a plea that could potentially be harmful to the defendant’s case.
Finally, the court determines the conditions of the defendant’s release. There is a presumption in Massachusetts courts that a defendant should be released on his own recognizance, which means that the defendant doesn’t need to post bail to be allowed to leave. Bail is only set to ensure that the defendant returns to court for his next appearance. In determining what amount bail should be set at, the judge looks at a number of different factors that could include the nature of the offense changed, the potential penalty to the defendant, the defendant’s financial and family situation, the defendant’s past criminal record, or even the defendant’s mental health records. In some cases, the judge sets specific restrictions in order for the defendant to avoid paying bail. For example, if the defendant is in school the court might require regular attendance from the defendant.
Prior to leaving the courtroom, the judge will set the date for the defendant’s next court appearance, at which point the prosecution moves out of the arraignment phase to the next part of the proceedings.
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If you are facing an arraignment in Massachusetts, please Contact the Greater Boston Criminal Defense Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP to schedule a Free Initial Consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys. Our phones are answered twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to being available around the clock via telephone, all Emails sent to Altman & Altman, LLP receive an immediate response. With offices conveniently located in Cambridge and Boston, our MA Criminal Defense lawyers have the ability to speak with you face-to-face about your legal matters. Please Contact our office today to set up your confidential fee-of-charge initial consultation.
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