If your loved one has been arrested, you may be worried about his or her welfare and confused about what will happen next. You will likely find it difficult to obtain reliable information in the first hours after the arrest, and you may hear many unfamiliar terms about the process head. One of these terms is “arraignment.”
After an arrest, your loved one will be arraigned, which means he or she will face a judge for the first time. It is an important part of the criminal justice procedure and a time when the prosecution, the judge and your loved one’s attorney will make some important decisions that will direct the next phases of the process.
What to expect
An arraignment is not a trial. No witnesses will testify, and no one will present any evidence to the court. The judge will make no decisions about your loved one’s innocence or guilt. Instead, this is the moment when your loved one will hear the details of the charges the state of New York is making against him or her. Your loved one has the right to an attorney during this time, and they will likely discuss how to plead when the judge reads the charges. The plea options include:
- Not guilty, in which case the judge will schedule a date for your loved one’s trial to begin
- Nolo contendere, which means your loved one accepts a conviction but does not admit guilt for the offense
- No plea, if your loved one opts to exercise the right to remain silent and allow the judge to enter a plea of not guilty on your loved one’s behalf
- Guilty, in which case the next step is for the judge to review the evidence and schedule a date for sentencing
Reviewing the evidence is an important step. The judge will determine if the evidence supports your loved one’s guilty plea. A guilty plea typically involves some bargaining with the prosecutor, so it may also include a reduction of charges. Nevertheless, the judge may also look into your loved one’s criminal history and examine any mitigating factors that may affect the court’s ruling on your loved one’s penalties.
Bail and future hearings
If your loved one pleads not guilty, the judge will decide whether to set bail and how much it should be. Upon his or her release, your loved one will probably have additional hearings or court appearances scheduled as well as strategy meetings with legal counsel. It is critical that he or she attends every one of these meetings and participates fully in the plans for defending against the charges your loved one faces.