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What to expect during the arraignment

When someone is facing criminal charges, one of the first legal actions after arrest is an arraignment, also known as the initial hearing. Due to the stress of being in jail, the person of interest may feel confused and not fully understand everything that is going on. 

During this hearing, the judge covers a few basics that the defendant should be aware of for best preparation. 

Arraignment basics

According to the United States Department of Justice, Offices of the United States Attorneys, the arraignment takes place soon after the arrest, and often on the same day. The judge reads the defendant the charges against him or her as well as applicable rights. 

If at all possible, it is a good idea for the person of interest to hire an attorney before this hearing, as one of the things the judge requests is for a guilty or not guilty plea. Discussing this ahead of time with a lawyer helps the defendant make a more informed decision. If, at the time of the hearing, the defendant does not have legal representation, the judge will assign someone. 

Factors involved in bail decisions

During the arraignment, there is a discussion and decision made regarding bail. According to the Arizona State Legislature, the judge may release the defendant pending trial on his or her own recognizance, which means without setting bail, but this is not common. 

The judge considers various factors when determining whether or not to set bail, and the amount: 

  • The nature and severity of the offense 
  • Prior legal trouble of the defendant 
  • Risk of defendant to the community 
  • Weight of evidence 
  • Family ties, financial resources, employment and character of defendant 
  • Flight risk 

If granted bail, the defendant may need to follow certain restrictions. If there is a commitment of an offense while released, the judge will revoke the release.