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Arraignment Process in California


The arraignment is the initial court appearance in a criminal case in all of the courthouses in Los Angeles County.  The person being accused for the crime or crimes and their attorney will receive the  a complaint stating the charges against the defendant.  The initial discovery (all police reports and evidence related to the case) will be provided to the defense attorney.  The judge will use the bail schedule and listen to the attorneys arguments in deciding what bail will be set for the case or can decide to release the person on their on recognizance (let them out of custody with a promise to appear, instead of having to post a bail).  In my opinion, it is crucial to the success of your criminal case that you have a seasoned criminal defense attorney by your side right from the beginning of the case.  Important rights can be lost if the arraignment process is not handled the right way with your specific interests in mind.

There are a number of key reasons that having your attorney hired as early as the arraignment is imperative.  First, the bail for the case will be set at the first court appearance, and once it is set, the judge will not change it unless the defense can show some sort of “changed circumstances” that are beneficial to the defendant.  This is a very difficult thing to show and it usually means that once the bail is set, that will be the bail for the rest of the case.  Another big issue that must be dealt with at the beginning of the case relates to the strategy that will be employed moving forward.  Valuable opportunities can be lost when your chosen attorney is not present in court to make the right moves on your behalf.

I have seen Public Defenders set cases for preliminary hearing, for example, that should have been left in the arraignment court or at least been set for preliminary hearing setting in order to give the defense a chance to investigate the case and come up with the best strategy moving forward.  The criminal justice system can be harsh if you advocate does not thoughtfully consider what moves make the best sense for you and your particular situation.

Having your own prepared attorney present at the arraignment process can help you get out of custody and prevent you from being ordered to do certain things that you do not want to do.  I speak to prosecutors all the time at the arraignment and convince them to not object to my client being let out on their own recognizance and I am able to give them my client's side of the story in order to start the process of getting them to see things our way.  The practice of criminal defense can be complex and it takes preparation, experience with the players (judge, prosecutor and court staff) within the system to make the right moves for your client and thus end up with the best possible result under the circumstances.  This is not something to be taken lightly and it is a situation that carries with it serious consequences that can not be undone.  The mind set should be, do it once, do it right and never do it again!


An arraignments the first stage in the California criminal court process. The arraignment hearing follows the arrest and is where the court will advise you of all your Constitutional rights; the court will state the specific charges that have been filed against you and you will have an opportunity to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest; and the court will set, modify, reinstate, or clear your bail.  Sometimes it is even appropriate to continue the arraignment for strategy reasons and if it is a courthouse that will permit you and your attorney to do this.

There should not be any unreasonable delay between your arrest and your arraignment. This is an issue that we as your criminal attorneys will look into and see if there was any unreasonable delay, which if there was, may be a violation of your legal rights.  If you do not post a bail after your arrest, the police must get you into court within two business days of your arrest.  If they are unable to get you into court within this time frame or if the prosecutors can not make a filing decision within this time frame, then they must let you go.  If you post bail on your case before being brought to court, then you will usually have a court date 30-45 days away and then you will start the arraignment process.

If you are facing felony charges, you will likely be required to appear before the judge and if you are facing a misdemeanor charge, we will appear on your behalf as your criminal defense lawyer.  This is the type of decisions and strategies that will be discussed at the first meeting we have to discuss your case.

During this time, the judge will inform you of all your Constitutional rights such as the right against self incrimination, the right to a speedy trial, the right to a trial by jury, the right to produce and confront witnesses. The arraignment is also the time you will have an opportunity to enter your plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Another option may be a Deferred Entry of Judgment or Diversion which is a type of diversion program that gives you certain terms and conditions to complete and once completed, your charges will be dismissed.

At the Hedding Law Firm, we we will sit down with you, discuss all the details of your case, and advise you on the wisest route to take. Contact our criminal defense attorneys to review your case. us to set up a free case evaluation and we will take up our position as your advocate and do everything we can to get you the best possible results.

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