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Arraignment Process in Los Angeles Criminal Courts


If you’ve never been charged with a crime or you have a loved one who is being charged with a crime and you never had to deal with it, one of the first things you’re going to hear talked about is an arraignment.

Basically, that’s where the person appears in court.  They appear because they were given some sort of a citation, the government sent them a letter to appear or they’re arrested and brought into Arraignment Process in Los Angeles Criminal Courtscustody if they don’t post bail, and then they would appear at the arraignment, or they’re arrested, post a bail, are given a future court date in a Los Angeles county criminal court — it’s usually about thirty to forty-five days ahead depending on how busy the courts are. If in police custody, you have to be arraigned within 48 hours after arrest.

Then the person will show up in court with their attorney — or, if they don’t have an attorney, they can use the services of the public defender if they meet the appropriate financial criteria for being able to get a free attorney.  If not, you bring your own attorney.

What is an Arraignment?

It’s the first court appearance after charges have been filed against you. Your attorney will typically be given the paperwork — what they call discovery — at the initial arraignment and speak to the prosecutor about the case.

Usually a new court date is going to be set at the arraignment.  You can either continue the arraignment or enter a not-guilty plea.  If it’s a felony case, you will have to appear at arraignment and  you can set it for preliminary hearing or you can set it for what’s called early disposition in some of the courts, where you’re trying to see if you can resolve the case, or some of the courts call it pre-trial or preliminary hearing setting if the case is filed as a felony.

If it’s filed as a misdemeanor and you enter a not-guilty plea versus continuing the arraignment, then they’ll typically set it for a pre-trial date and ultimately you’ll be entitled to have a trial within a speedy amount of time.  Usually, that’s within sixty days of your arraignment.

Setting Bail

At the arraignment, if bail hasn’t been set, usually when the attorney gets the paperwork, within the prosecutor’s discovery packet is going to be a complaint.  In the complaint, usually on page two or three, depending on how many charges are filed, it will say what the prosecutor’s recommended bail is.  The judge will look at that and at the time of the arraignment the attorneys will argue bail and ultimately the judge will decide.

In Los Angeles County when you go to an arraignment and they set a bail, usually they’re going to be setting the bail out of what’s called bail schedule, which basically means the judges have gotten together and decided for each crime, what the appropriate bail is going to be.  Now, the bail can be higher or lower than that, depending on what the judge decides is fair under the circumstances.

For purposes of an arraignment and bail the judge is to assume the charges are true when setting bail.  Whether they’re true or not, whether the government has proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s just simply the rule.  Most courthouses at the arraignment are not going to be negotiating the case.

The prosecutor there will know limited information about the case.  Sometimes they don’t even read the file.  They know a not-guilty plea is going to be entered, bail’s going to be set and a new court date is going to be chosen.

Do You Have to Appear at Arraignment?

But there are some courts in some cases where your attorney can go in the arraignment and try to resolve the case.  I usually don’t like to do that because obviously, I want to look at everything, talk to my client about it and really strategize it before making any decisions.

But, some occasions when the client’s in custody, can’t bail out and the government has the goods on him, if you can work out a resolution where they get out of custody that day, that sometimes tantalizing the client because they don’t want to just sit in custody while they’re waiting for there case to be resolved.  Not every case is like that.

That’s definitely something to consider depending on the circumstances, because you certainly don’t want your client languishing in custody, not being able to work, not being able to make money or do anything while they’re in custody.

So, sometimes the arraignment is the right time to resolve the case; other times it’s not.  It’s something to discuss with your attorney.  It’s something to strategize and something to figure out and obviously, whatever move you’re making is going to be in the best interest of your client. Contact the Hedding Law Firm for help.

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About the Author

Named Top Los Angeles Criminal Attorney by LA Times and named one of the Top 100 criminal defense attorneys in California by the National Trial Lawyers Association. I'm the attorney other lawyers hire to defend them.