What to Expect in an Arraignment
For a person who is being arraigned, it is an extremely stressful and disturbing experience. Listed below is the detailed process of an arraignment, which will make the experience less stressful.
The lawyer will advise her/his client on what time the district court opens to the public. The client can also go online and find out her/himself. It is a good idea to get there a few minutes early. Cell phones must be left in the car, and if not, the person must have it turned off before entering the courtroom.
The day will begin by going through security at the courthouse’s main entrance and continuing to the probation department. Employees who work at the district court clerk’s office are on duty and must maintain a strict level of professionalism in their jobs, and therefore, it is best to be polite and quiet. The person should advise any representative from the probation department that s/he is reporting, for the first time, and is scheduled to be arraigned. The employee will ask the person to fill out a form, which details her/his criminal history, current residence and contact information. At this time, the person can advise that s/he has retained private counsel. There are a number of questions that are designed to determine whether, based upon income and other financial resources, the person qualifies to receive court-appointed counsel. Because the person is hiring an attorney, the income-related questions are irrelevant.
After signing in with probation, the person will proceed to the first session, e.g., the main courtroom, which is also commonly referred to as the “arraignment session.” The individual who sits directly in front of the judge is the assistant clerk-magistrate. The clerk will call names, usually in alphabetical order, of the individuals that are scheduled to appear before the court that day. When the person’s name is called, s/he will walk up to the microphone.
It is important for the person to dress professionally, as well as address the judge respectfully. Greetings such as “Good morning, Your Honor,” etc. are considered highly respectful. If the lawyer is there with the person, s/he will do the speaking on the person’s behalf; and, s/he will otherwise explain when they are available for a pre-trial conference. The clerk will automatically enter a plea of Not Guilty on the person’s behalf, in response to the count or counts included on the criminal complaint; for instance, Operating Under the Influence (OUI) could be one count and Speeding another count.
The clerk will have copies of the criminal complaint and the police report that was prepared and submitted by the county’s Police Department. The prosecutor has the right to request conditions of release while the case is pending. Those conditions, for example, could include cash bail, that the person must remain alcohol free, etc. The rational and standard for setting a cash bail is: imposing conditions of pretrial release that will reasonably assure that the person appear before the court when s/he is scheduled to do so. High cash bails are appropriate when the judge finds that the defendant poses a flight risk, or is otherwise a danger to members of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Next, the judge will advise the person of the “bail warnings.” For example, if the person is charged with an OUI, the bailing warnings could be that s/he cannot operate a motor vehicle, must show up when scheduled to appear, and if s/he is arrested while the case is pending, the court could revoke bail (the person would be currently released on a bail, personal recognizance, e.g., her/his promise to appear) and detain her/him without bail for up to 90 days, or until the case is resolved, whichever is earlier. Then, the court will ask for dates that the person’s attorney provided to schedule her/his next appearance, which will be a pre-trial conference, and will likely be scheduled for approximately 30-45 days.
If You are Charged with a Crime…
Boston criminal defense lawyer Vincent A. Tofani understands that an arraignment can be an extremely stressful time, especially if it is your first arraignment. He knows the Massachusetts legal system inside and out and will guide you during each step of your arraignment. Attorney Tofani has been recognized for his excellent work, including being named as a Top 10 Under 40 criminal defense lawyer. He provides free and confidential phone consultations. Please contact him at 617-886-0500 x1018 to discuss your case.