Arraignment: What is it and What Happens during it?

The arraignment is usually the first court date that people are before the court to face their charges. The arraignment is the day in which people know officially the charges that are before them. In Massachusetts, if people are being charged in court it will be by way of a criminal complaint. A complaint is an official court document that states the charges against the person.

There are two ways in which a person is brought to an arraignment. A person can be brought in custody or be summoned to court. In custody, just means that the person is brought to court in handcuffs. Conversely, when a person is summoned to court they are sent a piece of paper stating when and where he or she needs to show up at court. If a summoned person fails to show up voluntarily before the court, a warrant could be issued and that person could end up being brought in handcuffs.

At the arraignment, there are usually a lot of other cases scheduled so it can be awhile before a person’s case is called. When the case is finally called, the court will usually read the charges against the person and enter a not guilty plea. The court will then address bail and terms of release. Finally, the court will ask if the person wants to represent themselves or want an attorney to represent them.

For the most part, unless there are some issues, the arraignment happens pretty quickly. A person can try to resolve a simple case during the arraignment, but more complicated matters will usually be put on for another court date. At the arraignment, try to be patient while waiting for your case, be respectful to the judge and court personnel and try to get as much paperwork from the court and district attorney as possible.

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