Arraignment in Arizona

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Authorities in Arizona must take anyone who’s been arrested to a judge or magistrate without “unreasonable delay," and in no event later than 24 hours after arrest. They must release a suspect whom they haven’t brought before a magistrate within 24 hours. And if the arrest wasn’t pursuant to a warrant, the authorities must prepare a complaint within 48 hours of the initial court appearance—otherwise, the suspect is entitled to release. (Ariz. R. Crim. P. 4.1.)

(For more information on arraignment and initial court appearances in general, see Arraignment: Getting to Court.)

The Initial Appearance

The first court appearance is when a defendant learns about the charges and how to get out of jail. Arraignment, a formal procedure for presenting the charges and taking the defendant’s plea, may happen at the initial appearance or a later court appearance. (See How should I plead at arraignment?)

What Happens

At the defendant’s first appearance, the magistrate must explain the charges and go over certain rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

The magistrate will also:

  • ascertain the defendant’s correct name and address
  • determine whether there is probable cause to keep the defendant in custody (if there isn’t, immediate release is in order)
  • appoint an attorney if the defendant requests and can’t afford one
  • allow the victim to comment on the defendant’s potential release, and
  • determine the conditions of release. (See Bail: Getting Out of Jail After an Arrest.)

(Ariz. R. Crim. P. 4.2.)

If the crime is a felony and the defendant hasn’t been indicted, the magistrate will also inform the defendant of the right to a preliminary hearing and schedule it if the defendant doesn’t waive it.


At the arraignment, the court takes the defendant’s plea. The court will also hear argument about the defendant’s release conditions. The court also sets dates for future court proceedings and advises the defendant of the right to a jury trial, if that right applies. (Ariz. R. Crim. P. 14.3.)


Arraignments for defendants in jail usually have to happen within 10 days of the filing of the charging document. For an out-of-custody defendant, the arraignment must be within 30 days.

Arraignment isn’t necessary if the defendant’s attorney has appeared and entered a plea of not guilty, or if the court allows the defendant to plead by mail. (Ariz. R. Crim. P. 14.1.) Also, defendants can often waive their appearance in writing, so that they don’t have to be in court for arraignment. (Ariz. R. Crim. P. 14.2.)

Consult a Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested, whether or not you’ve been to court yet, seek the help of a knowledgeable attorney. An experienced lawyer can give you a full explanation of the law, including its technical procedures and your options if there’s been any impermissible delay in the proceedings.

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