How do I Prepare for an Arraignment?

N. Madison
N. Madison

When you are preparing for an arraignment, it is usually important to seek the help of an attorney. A lawyer may help you understand your rights and advise you of the process of arraignment in your jurisdiction. Likewise, a lawyer may help you with gathering information that could influence the court’s decisions regarding bail and other matters. For example, he may gather character statements from your employer or business associates that may encourage a judge to set low bail, or no bail, in your case. Additionally, a lawyer may advise you on what to expect in the event that you plead guilty as well as the procedure if you plead innocent.

Bail money is returned, provided the accused attends his or her court proceedings.
Bail money is returned, provided the accused attends his or her court proceedings.

If you cannot afford a defense lawyer, your jurisdiction may provide a public defender to represent you in your case. You may also seek free legal advice from non-profit legal organizations. Additionally, member associations may provide free or discount legal representation to members. It is generally considered a poor idea to proceed without legal help. If you choose to do so, you may significantly hurt your chances of getting acquitted.

Some organizations offer free legal advice via telephone.
Some organizations offer free legal advice via telephone.

As you prepare for an arraignment, it is also a good idea to decide how you want to plead. If you choose to plead guilty in a case, you will usually skip the trial and receive sentencing based on your admission of guilt. In some cases, sentencing occurs on the same day as the plea of guilt, but this is not always the case. In some cases, a judge will set a sentencing hearing to occur at a later date. If you plead not-guilty, on the other hand, a judge will typically set a court date on which your trial will begin. In some cases, this date may be set for months after your arraignment.

While you prepare for an arraignment, you may also consider bail. If a judge believes that you are not a danger to others and are a low risk for fleeing from justice, he may free you on bail pending a trial. This usually means you or another person will have to deposit a sum of money with the court as a guarantee that you will show up for your court date. If you think a judge may release you on bail, you may do well to consider where you will get the money to post bail. For example, you may contact friends, family members, or a bail agent to help with this.

N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


@strawCake - Good point. A lot of people don't have bail money, so I'd just like to point out that some insurance policies have provisions for bail money. Check your insurance policy and see if you have that so you're prepared in the unfortunate event of legal trouble.


I think it really stinks that a trial might be months after an arraignment. If you are unable to post bail or the judge doesn't release you on bail, you may have to wait for months in jail for your trial!

I think this just highlights the need for a good attorney, and excellent preparation. The last thing anyone wants to do (especially if you are innocent) is spend a few months in jail unnecessarily.


@carrotisland- Wow. That is quite a story. I hope by now you have learned which crowd to stay away from.

I am responding to your post to make it clear to everyone that not all court-appointed lawyers are just getting through the day. I am sorry that your attorney did not fight for you but that is not always the case.

I was once in a similar situation. The district attorney was itching to have me thrown in jail for years. When my arraignment day came, I walked in and say my "court-appointed attorney" laughing and joking around with the district attorney who was trying to prosecute me. That made me very uncomfortable. However, when it came time for my arraignment hearing, he definitely came through for me.

There will be someone in every profession that does not live up to their title. I just didn't want all court-appointed attorneys to seem as though they don't care.


A few years ago, I was mixed up with the wrong crowd of people and made some bad decisions which led me to jail. After getting out of jail, I still had to pay off a lot of fines. I had one fine that I had failed to pay and a warrant was issued for my arrest. When I found that out, I immediately went to the court office and paid it.

Two weeks later, I was driving home after partying with some friends. Clearly, I had not yet learned my lesson. Anyway, I went through a regular traffic stop where they check your license and insurance. When they checked mine, they said that I had an outstanding warrant. I told them that it was paid. They were very rude and said that their system doesn't lie. Due to the fact that I had this warrant, they said that gave them the right to search my vehicle. Upon that search, they found a can of beer that was opened. I got charged with open container and was arrested.

I could not afford an attorney so I had the court appointed attorney at my arraignment. I told him that I could not be charged with the open container because the search of my vehicle was done illegally because I did not have a warrant on me at that time. The attorney had no interest in my excuse so I asked the judge if I could speak for myself.

After I pleaded my case, the records indicated that I did not have a warrant and that the search was, indeed illegal. Anything found in that search could not be used. I was found not-guilty with the apologies of the court.

I say all of that to say this: Always be prepared for your arraignment. Do not depend on your court appointed attorney to fight your battle because they are going to get a paycheck whether they win or lose.

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