The first court proceeding an individual accused of committing a crime would be arraignment. This is a procedural matter where the charges leveled against the accused are read out in open court. In this process, the court would ask the accused to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty.
Aside from being informed of the criminal acts the individual is accused of, there are other reasons for such procedure, which are as follows:
a) The court with jurisdiction over the case would advise the Constitutional rights of the accused;
b) The arraignment formally informs the accused of the specific acts committed constituting the criminal offense being charged;
c) The arraignment would be the first opportunity to address the charges being made against them;
This proceeding is spearheaded by the prosecutorial arm of government and during this process, the accused’s Constitutional rights would be protected during the criminal justice process:
1) The accused has the right to an attorney of choice or if the accused cannot afford one, then the court appoints a lawyer for the accused;
2) The accused has the right against self-incrimination or become a witness against themselves;
3) The accused has the right to a speedy, fair and just trial;
4) The accused has the right to a trial with a jury of their peers, if the offense being charged falls within the purview of the grand jury requirement;
5) The accused has the right to cross-examine the witnesses and the evidence presented together with the right to present their own witnesses and evidence;
For felony offenses, the accused is required to be in court in person during arraignment. Personal appearance does not necessarily require physical appearance as other means are now considered as personal appearance. This includes audio/video conferencing or through a validly recognized representative. The absence though many be allowed when a valid or accepted excuse is given in court. This acceptance would be conditional and any acceptance can be withdrawn and once withdrawn, a subsequent warrant of arrest would be issued to require attendance in court.
During arraignment, the accused would be provided all the paperwork, such as the arrest, booking and criminal complaint records to be allowed to prepare for a defense against the charges made. At this time, the accused would be required to enter a plea, which can be any of the following:
a) Plea of Guilty. This means the accused accepts all the charges made and essentially owns up to the crime. Upon entry of this plea, the accused would be asked as to freedom and volition in the entry of the plea. The accused would then proceed to a sentencing hearing to determine the appropriate penalty to be imposed for the crime admitted.
b) Guilty Nolo Contendere or Plea of Guilty, No Contest. This is another form of the guilty plea that is done with the implication that all civil suit implications are also accepted and acceded to by the accused.
c) Plea of Not Guilty. This plea when entered would mean the rejection of all the accusations made during the arraignment. Another form would be not entering a plea. When no plea is made, under the Constitutional provision on the presumption of innocence, the plea entered would be not guilty. The case would then go into pre-trial for discovery and other motions.
The arraignment process is a serious legal activity in California. Should you be or know anyone undergoing this process, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.