The arraignment is often the first court appearance in a criminal case, and must be held “as quickly as possible” following arrest according to the U.S. Supreme Court (Mallory v. U.S., 1957). If you are being held in jail, your arraignment must take place within 48 hours of your arrest, not counting weekends or holidays. If you have been released on bail, it usually happens several weeks after your release.
Arraignments are held quickly after an arrest as a protection for defendants. Police and prosecutors must have valid evidence gathered, and cannot hold you indefinitely while deciding how to proceed in court. The main points discussed in an Arraignment are as follows:
- The defendant is provided with a written accusation of the charges against him or her,
- The defendant responds to the charges, by pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest (nolo contendere),
- The judge decides on any bail issues, and
- The judge sets a tentative schedule for upcoming court dates, including the pretrial conference, preliminary hearing, hearing on pretrial motions, and the trial itself.
It is important to have a skilled criminal lawyer representing you from the beginning of your case so he or she can ensure all your legal rights are protected.