RDF Client Guide – What to Expect at your Arraignment
The arraignment is a somewhat antiquated process originally meant to protect a defendant’s rights when the government wished to charge them with a crime. The law forced the government to come forward and inform a defendant about the crimes they were facing. Then the court would explain the nature of those crimes as well as maximum and minimum penalties. Nowadays, unless they strenuously refuse, all defendants have an attorney who performs the function of the court by providing that information to their clients. However, the process itself remains important as the government is still required to inform us of any charges filed based upon an arrest or investigation of someone.
The actual arraignment process varies from county to county, and court to court. In fact, in some counties, courts allow attorneys to appear on behalf of their clients and clients need not even go to this largely procedural hearing at which nothing of substance actually happens.
For the courts that do require clients to appear, it is important to understand that absolutely nothing really important happens at the arraignment. We simply receive a copy of the “charging instrument” which is just a fancy name for the piece of paper the prosecutor files with the court charging clients with a crime, and schedule the next court date at which, usually, something of substance actually does occur.
Clients should understand that the officers that arrested them will absolutely not be at the arraignment. Likely, even if the client wanted to say something at their arraignment, the court probably would not even let them without consultation from their attorney. You cannot plead guilty at your arraignment even if you wanted to!
So, for practical purposes, here’s how to survive your arraignment – it is very simple…
What you will do when you arrive
You’ll meet the attorney at the planned time and place. Most counties will have security at the court entrance so be prepared to do a very similar dance to the security at the airport, metal detectors and the like. So dress for that and only bring appropriate items as they will confiscate or not allow you in with any contraband. Contraband is stuff that would not be allowed into court – think, weapons, drugs, etc.
In case it needs to be said, obviously you’re never coming to court under the influence, impaired or intoxicated. And, you’re not bringing anything illegal with you to court. We have seen clients taken into custody or forced to take a UA (pee in a cup) if they’re in court smelling like alcohol. That, obviously, does not send the proper message of respect for the process to the court.
Once you meet your attorney
After going through security, you enter the courtroom with your attorney. Again, this process can vary a bit from court to court but basically there will be many people all there for the same thing – their arraignments. There will be many people who have the same court time that you have. The judge will work through the list based on that specific court’s process. You may wait for awhile or you may be first or right near the top so it is important that you’re on time, just like any other court date.
You’ll take a seat with all the others and wait for your case to be called. Once called, you’ll go up to the front with your attorney. Someone will hand the attorney the “charging instrument” at which time the attorney often needs your help to check if the name on the charging instrument is actually yours and is spelled correctly. If your date of birth appears on the charging instrument, we’ll need to check and ensure that is accurate too.
Once that is complete, the attorney will say a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo – a few sentences that ends with entering a “not guilty” plea on your behalf and setting the next date. That is it! The whole process, not counting waiting for your case to be called, lasts maybe a minute or two at which time you almost assuredly do not have to say a word and just stand there with your lawyer. It is one of the simplest processes we have in the criminal justice system. Other than the inconvenience of coming to court, waiting in line at security, and waiting for your case to be called, it is simple, easy and nothing to worry about.
Suggestions for What to Wear
Finally, please always keep in mind to dress appropriately for all court dates. We’re past the days of needing everyone to be in suits – the lawyers have to, but clients certainly do not. However, the attire you wear does indicate how you feel about court – we urge clients to show their respect for the court and the system overall by dressing appropriately. How you present yourself to the court will assist in our representation of you. Again, it is not a black-tie affair by any means, but respectful attire is appreciated and shows the court you’re taking this very serious situation seriously and with respect. We usually recommend people pretend like they’re going to a job interview (for a job you actually want) or out for a nice meal with people you like and respect.
Although this RDF Client Guide has a lot of good information in it, it is not all the information that we have to share with you. Please visit our website at www.reynoldsdefensefirm.com. We have included Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), client reviews, an introduction to our Reynolds Defense Firm team as well as links to most of the resources you will need throughout your legal case process. Our goal at RDF is to make your experience with the legal system as smooth as possible, and we hope this information has been beneficial and will help to facilitate the partnership between us. If you have any questions as you read through this, or if you’d like an additional level of help at any time as we proceed through your case, please contact our office at (503) 223-3422.