If you are charged with a felony, your first court appearance will be an arraignment. What happens at a felony arraignment?
Some crimes in California are charged as felonies. Others are charged as misdemeanors. Some crimes, known as “wobblers,” may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances. California, as does many jurisdictions, defines a felony as a crime with a maximum sentence of more than one year in custody. Felonies apply to more serious offenses and are punishable by more than one year in jail or, in some cases, even death.
Any unreasonable delay in holding an arraignment is a violation of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. An arraignment must occur within 48 hours of an arrest if the arrestee is kept in custody after the arrest. Weekends and holidays are not included in calculating these 48 hours.
You must appear personally at a felony arraignment. Although there are a few exceptions, an attorney cannot act in your place. The failure to appear at a felony arraignment will result in a warrant for your arrest and another felony charge for failing to appear.
An arraignment typically adheres to the following sequence of events:
*The court informs defendants of the criminal charges filed against them
A defendant is informed of any pending charges and the potential sentence for these charges sought by the prosecutor.
*The court advises defendants of their constitutional rights
These constitutional rights include the right to be represented by a criminal defense attorney, the right to a speedy trial, the right to a trial by jury, the right against self-incrimination, and the right to call and confront witnesses.
*The defendant enters a plea
In addition to please of not guilty, guilty, or no contest, defendants in California also have the option to request a deferred entry of judgment under California Penal Code § 1000 PC. This alternative is a diversion program that enables the defendant to abide by certain terms and conditions for a pre-determined time. If a defendant completes the program, all charges against the defendant are dismissed.
*The court sets or modifies the defendant’s bail
This determination is made based on whether the defendant is a threat to the community or any parties in the case. Also factored in a bail decision is whether the defendant is a flight risk. The judge may reduce or raise bail, as well as keep bail as originally set.
*The judge sets the date for a preliminary hearing or trial
At a preliminary or probable cause hearing, the judge determines if there is enough evidence for the charges filed against the defendant. An experienced criminal defense counsel can help ensure that an individual accused of a crime suffers no loss of freedom if such proof is insufficient.
John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The advice, guidance, and representation of experienced criminal defense counsel may be crucial to achieving the best possible result in any criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.