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Criminal defense practice
What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is normally the first step after a criminal defendant has been formally charged.
“Arraign” means to call or bring someone before the court to answer for a criminal charge.
Is there a difference in arraignments in state, federal, and military courts?
I practice state (Florida), federal, and military criminal defense. Every month I handle arraignments is each type of court. There are small differences, but they are very similar. In each case, the defendant will be asked to enter a plea. A DEFENDANT should never simply plead guilty at an arraignment without first seeking legal advice!
In Florida criminal courts (known as County (Misdemeanor) Court and Circuit (Felony) Court), you generally enter a plea of not guilty unless you already have a plea agreement worked out with the prosecutor. The arraignment normally takes place after formal charges (a document called an “Information”) has been filed with the court. The arraignment may or may not be the first appearance in the case. If the defendant was arrested, there may have been a first appearance hearing where bond was set or reviewed. During a Florida arraignment, the judge may ask the prosecutor about any minimums or “sentencing guidelines,” the status of discovery, and the status of speedy trial rights. A Florida arraignment normally ends with the judge setting another pretrial/status hearing several weeks out. A Florida arraignment takes about 5 minutes.
In Federal criminal court, the first proceeding is normally called a First Appearance. During this appearance, the magistrate judge will review the defendant’s rights and determine whether a bond/detention hearing or other preliminary hearing is required. If formal charges have been filed (called in “Indictment” in federal court), the judge will inquire about setting an arraignment. During a federal arraignment, the judge will call on the prosecutor to inform the defendant of the charges and any minimum and maximum penalties for each charge. The judge will review the defendant’s trial rights. After pleas are entered (again, normally pleas of not guilty unless there is already a plea agreement), the magistrate judge will set the case on the district court judge’s calendar and inquire about discovery. A federal arraignment takes about 20 minutes.
In military courts-martial, an arraignment is the first time the defendant (called an “accused”) is before the military judge. The judge will review the accused’s rights to counsel and trial rights. The judge will have the prosecutor read voluminous data about the charges and then inquire from the defense counsel how the accused pleads. The pleas entered are normally not guilty to all charges unless there is a plea agreement. The military judge may let the accused reserve pleas until a later date. The military judge will then normally enter a scheduling order (often called a “trial management order”) in the case. If the accused is not in pretrial restraint (i.e. restriction or the brig), the judge will advice the accused that he or she has to attend all future proceedings. A court-martial arraignment normally lasts about 15 minutes.
As you can see, there are very small differences in state, federal, and military arraignments, but the purpose is the same – to get the defendant before the judge to enter pleas and permit the judge to start exercising control over the case.
If you have been charged in Florida, federal, or military court with a criminal offense, contact Korody Law for a free case evaluation at 904-383-7261.