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In a felony case, arraignment happens at two different times. After you are arrested, you are typically arraigned in Magistrate or Metropolitan Court. These courts do not have actual jurisdiction over felony charges, but are used to advise you of your rights and set initial conditions of your release, including your bail amount. If you are subsequently indicted on felony charges, you will be arraigned in District Court. At your District Court arraignment, you will be formally charged with your alleged crimes, and the Court will again consider your conditions of release, which will include your bail amount.

What happens at my arraignment?

At your felony arraignment, you will be represented by either private legal counsel, or the public defender. Your attorney will be provided with a copy of your indictment (alleged crimes), and will advise you of the penalties of each. When your case is called, the prosecutor will ask you to admit your identity, and to confirm that you are represented by legal counsel. The prosecutor will then read the indictment against you, or you may waive a formal reading. At that time, the Court will ask you to enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. Following the entry of your plea, the Court will consider your conditions of release, including the amount of your bail. Both the prosecutor and your legal counsel may present argument to the Court regarding any conditions of your release, and your attorney may raise any legal challenges to the sufficiency of the criminal indictment at that point.

How you should prepare for your arraignment?

It is important to be in contact with your legal counsel and any other individuals who can present positive information on your behalf to the Court, prior to your arraignment. It is important that your attorney have a complete understanding of not only your criminal history, but your work history, educational background, family history, and all other information pertinent to the conditions of your release. You may ask an employer, counselor, or other key figure in your life to write a letter to the court on your behalf. If you have family members with whom you could reside under house arrest, or into whose custody you could be released, you should ask those family members to appear in Court. You should always be respectful to the judge, and speak in a clear voice when responding to questions from the judge.

What happens if I cannot meet the conditions of my release?

If, at your arraignment, the judge sets your bond in an amount of money that you are unable to produce, you may file a motion to reconsider the conditions of your release. The Court may consider lowering your bond if significant time has passed while you have remained in custody, or if you or your legal counsel are able to provide additional information that supports the imposition of a lower bond. The Court may also consider other alternatives to posting bond, such as a release into third party custody, or house arrest.

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