What is an arraignment?

Kalamazoo courthouse

The arraignment is essentially the start of the formal criminal justice court process. When you are charged with a crime, a court must inform you of certain information about the charges, and this happens at the arraignment. A defendant must be informed of the following information: the nature of the crime, the potential penalty upon conviction, the right to an attorney, the right to enter a plea, and the right to have bond set. Regardless of whether you are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, the arraignment will almost always take place in front of a district court judge or magistrate. A defendant is not required to be physically present for an arraignment, so many courts conduct arraignments via video conference.

Nature of the Crime and Penalty

The court will read all the pending charges and the possible penalties associated with each charge. The crimes and panties are defined by statute and listed in the charging documents (complaint) as well. An individual must understand the gravity of the crime as part of the arraignment process because a plea cannot be

Constitutional Right to an Attorney

Every individual has a right to an attorney in criminal proceedings. This includes the right to a court-appointed attorney for those who cannot afford to hire private counsel. This right is a component of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that has been extended to the states in all felony, misdemeanor, and juvenile criminal proceedings by the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Right to enter a Plea

While you have a right to plea as you wish, an individual should always enter a NOT GUILTY plea at this stage (standing mute is also implied as a not guilty plea by the court). There are a number of reasons for this, but some of the more important are that there has been no discovery at this point, that there will most likely not be a modification of the charges, that there has been no discussion with the prosecutor’s office, and without speaking to an attorney you might not understand collateral consequences of a conviction for the charged offense.

Right to Have Bond Set

The right to have bond set is enumerated in MCR 6.106(F). The reasons to grant or deny bond is always dependent on the individual circumstances of a case, but the court’s main objections are to protect the public and ensure a defendant’s appearance at later court hearings. Essentially, the court will look at the nature of the crime, a defendant’s prior record of attending court dates, a defendant’s criminal record, a history of substance abuse or addiction, and the defendant’s mental state or reputation for violence. There is no set standard of rules when deciding bond, but the court often looks to those in MCR 6.106(F)(1)(e)-(i): (1) the seriousness of the offense charged, the presence or absence of threats, and the probability of conviction and likely sentence; (2) the defendant’s employment status and history and financial history insofar as these factors relate to the ability to post money bail; (3) the availability of responsible members of the community who would vouch for or monitor the defendant; (4) the defendant’s ties to the community, including family ties and relationships, along with length of residence; and (5) any other factors bearing on the risk of nonappearance or danger to the public. When bond is granted there will be a number of conditions placed on the defendant and violation of those terms may result the issuance of a warrant and ultimately bond revocation.

If you are charged with a crime in Kalamazoo or the surrounding areas, always consult with an experienced Kalamazoo criminal defense attorney. Butler, Toweson & Payseno has Kalamazoo criminal defense attorneys that are ready to guide you through the criminal justice system. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our Kalamazoo criminal defense lawyers.  

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