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What happens when my case is called?
Subject to local variation, most arraignments tend to
unfold as follows: When the judge calls the defendant’s case, the bailiff
normally directs the defendant where to stand. The judge reads the charge; at
that time a defendant who has not already gotten one usually receives a written
copy of the complaint (the charge) and the written report prepared by the
arresting officer (the arrest report). The judge then asks the defendant if she
has an attorney or wants the court to appoint one. Upon learning that the
defendant wants to self-represent, the judge then asks the defendant to enter a
plea. As mentioned, defendants usually plead not guilty at arraignment.
However, a self-represented defendant alternatively may:
Assuming that the defendant enters a plea, the judge
typically schedules the next court appearance. After a not guilty plea, the
next appearance may be for a pretrial conference, a preliminary examination, or
a trial date, depending on local procedures and whether the case involves a
felony or a misdemeanor. In the event of a guilty plea, the judge may pronounce
sentence immediately, or schedule a later “sentencing hearing,” which occurs
after a probation officer investigates a defendant’s background and submits a
If the arraignment is
combined with a bail hearing, which is typical, the judge will set bail at some
point in the course of the arraignment. If the defendant’s bail status has
already been determined, the judge normally concludes the arraignment by
continuing that same status.
by: Sara J. Berman
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