What happens at an arraignment?

Bail Concierge San Diego Bail Bonds FAQ

At an arraignment, the defendant appears in court before a judge, the charges are read, if the defendant cannot afford an attorney one is appointed, and the plea is entered of guilt, not-guilty, or no contest.

The defendant may then respond to the charges by entering a plea. Common pleas include guilty, not guilty, or no contest (also known as “nolo contendere”).

• Not Guilty means the defendant says he or she did not commit the crime. Sometimes, defendants enter a plea of not guilty as a strategic decision during plea bargaining or because they want to go to trial and force the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

• Guilty means the defendant admits he or she committed the crime. The judge finds the defendant guilty and enters a conviction in the court record.

• No Contest means the defendant does not contest (disagree with) the charge. This plea has the same effect as a guilty plea, except the conviction generally cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit.

Generally, the defendant is brought before a judge for arraignment within 24/48 hours after arrest. The exact time limit varies from state to state, though the United States Supreme Court now requires that if the defendant was arrested without a previously issues warrant, he or she must be brought before a judge within 48 hours, so that a judge may determine whether there was probable cause to arrest.

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