The first hearing subsequent to one’s arrest is called an arraignment. Any person arrested for a misdemeanor offense, and not released to the court on their own recognizance,or by posting bail must be brought to court for their arraignment within 48 hours of their arrest. This constitutional requirement does not count weekends or holidays.
Anyone arrested for a felony offense, and not released on their own recognizance, or by posting bail, must be brought to court for their arraignment within 72 hours of their arrest. Like misdemeanor cases, weekends and holidays are not counted towards this constitutional time requirement.
Since all people arrested, are presumed innocent until proven guilty, an arraignment is an opportunity to commence legal proceedings by giving the accused an opportunity to plead not guilty, after being advised of the charges being filed by the prosecutor. At a clients arraignment the charges are read, as well as the possible consequences of the charges,in the event the defendant pleads quilty, or isfound quilty after a curt or jury trial.
It is not unusual in the majority of criminal arraignments for the accused to enter a plea of not guilty, regardless of the actual evidence presented in the police report, or the truth of the accusation. The purpose is to allow a more relaxed timeframe in so an attorney can properly evaluate the charges being brought against his clients, as well as the facts contained in the police reports, and any exculpatory evidence which is present to fight the allegations, including favorable witnesses on behalf of the defendant.
It is one’s constitutional right to be represented by an attorney in any misdemeanor or felony case. And accused can retain his or her own counsel to protect and defend their freedom and good record. Those without sufficient funds to retain an attorney will be screened by the office of the public defender to qualify for their services. It is a common misconception, that the services of public defenders are without charge. In fact, fees are determined at the end of any case based upon the amount of time the attorney has spent preparing and defending the client against the current charges.
The cost for public defender services provided are evaluated in context of the defendants financial situation and their ability to pay the cost for legal counsel. In the event that there is no financial ability to contribute to the cost of their legal defense, then an attorney will be provided at no cost. Public defender’s are randomly assigned, and unfortunately, cannot be chosen by the client. Due to the large volume of cases in the court system, it is common that public defenders spend a relatively small amount of time on each case.