Step four in our ten step series of a federal criminal case explains what a criminal arraignment is in a federal criminal matter and what happens during an arraignment. There are slight differences between the procedure for arraignment in North Carolina state court and in federal court. This article discusses federal arraignments.
An arraignment is a court proceeding at which a criminal defendant is formally advised of the charges against him and is asked to enter a plea to the charges. At this time the court may also conduct what is called a “detention hearing” to decide whether the defendant will be released from jail pending trial. The arraignment takes place very shortly after the indictment against the defendant is returned.
Three things must happen at a federal arraignment:
- The court will ensure the defendant has a copy of the indictment.
- The court will read the indictment to the defendant or state the substance of the charges.
- The defendant will be asked to plead guilty or not guilty. The defendant typically pleads not guilty and the lawyer customarily requests a jury trial.
If a defendant pleads guilty, the court will schedule a sentencing hearing for a future date. If a defendant pleads not guilty, which is often recommended by a criminal defense attorney and the most common choice, the government must prove its case against the defendant. The defendant will be provided with the government’s evidence and exculpatory material (discovery), and the case will proceed toward trial.
An arraignment hearing is often immediately followed by a detention hearing, in which the court will apply set factors to decide whether the defendant will get out of jail pending trial and conditions of release. The court considers factors like:
- whether the defendant is a danger to the community;
- the defendant’s criminal record;
- the defendant’s ties to the community (how long he has lived in the community and whether he has family nearby);
- whether the defendant is employed in the community and for how long;
- whether the defendant has any history of failing to appear for court.
Like most steps in this series, arraignment is governed by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure – in this instance, Rule 10. You can read it here:
If you need a hard-working criminal defense attorney or have any questions regarding the process of an arraignment, feel free to contact Terpening Law at (980) 265-1700.
Tune in next week for Step 5!
Best for now!
McKensey Brock, Paralegal