Arraignment in Mississippi

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In Mississippi, a defendant who has been arrested and is still in custody is entitled to a court appearance that occurs without unnecessary delay and within 48 hours of arrest. Defendants who have bailed out of jail or been released on “OR,” or who have been indicted by a grand jury, aren’t entitled to this court appearance. (Miss. R. Unif. Cir. and Cty. Ct. Rules 6.03, 6.05.)

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

Initial Appearance

At the initial appearance, the judicial officer (for example, a judge) will:

  • determine the defendant’s true name and address
  • inform the defendant of the charges and provide him or her with a copy of the complaint, and
  • determine whether there was probable cause for the arrest if the arrest wasn’t pursuant to a warrant.

If the court doesn’t find probable cause for the arrest—that is, if it finds insufficient proof that the defendant committed the alleged crime(s)—then it must order the defendant’s release.

The judicial officer must also advise the defendant of:

  • the right to remain silent
  • the right to counsel, even if the defendant can’t afford an attorney
  • the right and opportunity to communicate with a lawyer, family, or friends
  • the bail amount and any conditions of release
  • the defendant’s right to demand a preliminary hearing while he or she remains in custody. (Miss. R. Unif. Cir. and Cty. Ct. Rule 6.03.)

Effect of Unnecessary Delay

Failure to receive an initial appearance within 48 hours doesn’t automatically result in evidence being suppressed or reversal of a conviction. For either to happen, the defendant must have been prejudiced by the delay. (Lee v. State, 759 So.2d 1264 (Miss. 2000).)

So, even though the 48-hour rule was clearly violated when the defendant didn’t receive an initial appearance until four days after arrest, statements made during that time were admissible. The defendant had been informed of his Miranda rights and expressly waived those rights before giving a voluntary statement within 48 hours of his arrest. (Bell v. State, 963 So. 2d 1124 (Miss. 2007).)

Preliminary Hearing

In-custody defendants who haven’t been indicted by a grand jury are entitled to a preliminary hearing. This is often called a probable cause hearing because the judicial officer determines (again) if there is a reasonable basis for belief that the defendant committed the alleged crime(s). The preliminary hearing is also another opportunity for a judicial officer to set conditions of release. If the judicial officer doesn’t find probable cause (which seldom happens), the defendant is entitled to release. However, the government can later file charges again. (Miss. R. Unif. Cir. and Cty. Ct. Rules 6.04, 6.05.)

Arraignment

Unless a defendant choses to waive it, arraignment is to occur within 30 days after the government has served him or her with an indictment.

The arraignment is held in open court. The judicial officer reads the charges and the defendant enters a plea. (See How should I plead at arraignment?) The defendant can waive reading of the charges if he or she has an attorney. (Miss. R. Unif. Cir. and Cty. Ct. Rule 8.01.)

Consult a Lawyer

If you’ve been arrested, whether or not you’ve been to court, seek legal assistance. Only a knowledgeable attorney can fully advise you of the relevant law and protect your rights.

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