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What Is an Arraignment?

An arraignment is the first court appearance following an arrest, and it must generally take place within 48 hours following the arrest. A person may be arrested with or without a warrant. Warrantless arrests require additional scrutiny by the defense attorney, particularly if evidence was obtained from the accused following the arrest, and probable cause must be established to justify a warrantless arrest within 48 hours.  See Riverside v McLaughlin, 500 US 44, 56 (1991) and Gerstein v Pugh,420 U. S. 103 (1975). 

After a person has been arrested, he or she must be promptly brought before a district court judge or magistrate, but the arraignment can be done electronically over two-way video equipment, which has become increasingly common.  MCR 6.104(A) states, "Arraignment Without Unnecessary Delay. Unless released beforehand, an arrested person must be taken without unnecessary delay before a court for arraignment in accordance with the provisions of this rule, or must be arraigned without unnecessary delay by use of two-way interactive video technology in accordance with MCR 6.006(A)."

At the arraignment, the defendant is not permitted to raise defenses. It is important for the accused to understand that this is not the time to speak about the case. Defenses are not raised at the arraignment, and in many instances, neither a prosecutor nor a defense attorney is available for the hearing. Here is a step-by-step run down of a typical arraignment:

  • The court calls the case. In court, the accused may be brought to stand before a lectern or stand in the jury box.
  • The judge or magistrate will read the charges to the accused to provide explicit notice of the allegations and counts being charged. (When represented by an attorney who is present, the formal reading is frequently waived.) 
  • The court advises the accused of the maximum possible penalty, along with any mandatory minimum sentence.
  • The court must advise the accused of the following: (a) the accused has a right to remain silent, (b) anything the accused says orally or in writing can be used against the accused in court, (c) the accused has a right to have a lawyer present during any questioning consented to, and (d) if the accused does not have the money to hire a lawyer, the court will appoint a lawyer for the accused.
  • If the matter is a felony, the court will enter a not guilty plea on the defendant's behalf. If the matter is a misdemeanor, the court will ask the accused how he or she wants to plead, guilty or not guilty. Almost without exception, the defendant should plead not guilty at this stage. (The defendant may also plead no contest, which is a guilty plea, or stand mute, which is treated as a not guilty plea.) Generally, keep it simple and plead not guilty at this stage.
  • If the defendant was brought before the court on a warrantless arrest, the court must sign a complaint establishing probable cause that has been prepared by the prosecutor's office.
  • The court must then address pretrial release, more commonly understood as bail or bond.    
  • If the matter is a felony, the matter is scheduled for a probable cause conference to be held within 7 to 14 days, and a preliminary examination within 5 to 7 days of the probable cause conference.

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William Maze is an established Livonia Michigan attorney in Wayne County Michigan, and he has represented well over a thousand satisfied criminal defense clients across the state.  He has received multiple awards and recognitions, and he maintains a national reputation as one of the leading drunk driving defense attorneys in the country.  

  • Extensive training and education far beyond the average lawyer
  • Actually fights cases and is willing to go to trial
  • Past President of CDAM (2014-2015), the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan
  • Member of the National College for DUI Defense
  • Member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers