If an individual has been accused of committing a crime, they get charged and then produced in front of the court – a process called ‘arraignment.’ Being charged itself is very stress-inducing, arraignment is more so. That said, if you have proper knowledge of how the process works, you will be able to reduce anxiety and protect your interests to the best of your ability.

Below, we shall explain how arraignments work and how you should ideally navigate them:

The Arraignment’s Purpose:

The first and most important thing that you need to understand is why arraignments happen in the first place. This is the primary hearing in the court of law where the accused (against whom the charges have been leveled) are formally informed about the same. This is also the place where the accused get a fair chance to legally accept or protest their charges. If the accused pleads not guilty, a trial commences and a separate hearing begins. And if the accused pleads guilty, the proceedings will move to bargains or even sentencing.

The Explanation of Rights:

As mentioned before, the arraignment is where the accused gets informed of what their rights are. This means that they should get the right to due process, the right to keep silent and not incriminate oneself, and of course to a fair and just trial by a jury. In case the accused cannot afford hiring a lawyer, they have a right to ask for one – in which case the court itself will appoint one.

Getting a Plea Deal:

Some situations lead to the prosecutors offering a plea deal right at the start. This gives the accused an opportunity to plead guilty to the original charge and accept a smaller sentencing, or plead guilty to a lesser charge. Either way, the accused should always consult with their lawyer and take their advice on the matter.

Getting a Bail and Getting Released Before Trial:

For a number of charges, the court allows the accused to stay out of police custody until a verdict has been reached. Doing so might require the accused to pay a bail – a sum of money the court needs to ensure that they will be present at all hearings. The accused will also need to follow other directives, like refrain from speaking or contacting certain people, staying in touch with a probation officer and of course, not leaving the city of the hearing. If the accused has been offered bail but cannot pay for it, they can hire a bondsman to assist them financially or continue staying under police custody.

Following the Aftermath:

After the arraignment process comes the further hearing – as mentioned earlier pleading guilty leads to bargaining and sentencing, while pleading innocent proceeds to separate hearings which would include the presenting the evidence, testimonials from witnesses and discussion of further details – and later a trial in front of a court-appointed jury.

Arraignments are an essential part of the legal process to ensure that the accused gets a fair opportunity. It can turn out to be extremely instrumental for the accused and determine how their situation ends up. Knowing the workings of arraignments and consulting your lawyer will allow them to make the right decision.