The Arraignment

The Arraignment

Once all of the paperwork has been completed your case will be docketed (i.e., assigned to an arraignment courtroom) and you will be brought to a holding cell attached to the courtroom in which your arraignment will occur. If you have pre-arranged to be represented by your own lawyer, that attorney will notify the clerks and/or court officers in the part by submitting a “Notice of Appearance.” If you do not have your own lawyer the court will assign a legal aid, attorney, or someone who works in public defense to represent you. In either case the attorney will be given a copy of your papers and will speak with you before you see the judge. Attorney-client interviews are usually held in interview booths attached to the holding cell outside the courtroom (the attorney will call your name out shortly before your case is to be called in court). The attorney will tell you what crimes or violations you are being charged with, what, if any plea offer has been made by the District Attorney or judge, and will discuss with you what happened and what you wish to do. To prepare the arguments for your release, the lawyer may ask you to provide more information concerning your “community ties.” The attorney may need to contact a friend or family member in order to verify the information, and may also want to have them appear for you at the arraignment, if possible. Once the interview is finished the attorney will notify the part that you are ready and you will be brought into the courtroom for your arraignment.

The arraignment is in theory, the formal process by which you are informed of the charges against you and the rights you have as a defendant. In practice, this formal reading of the charges and rights is waived by defense counsel. The District Attorney will then give notice of any statements the People intend to use against you, as well an any identification of you by prosecution witnesses, and then give a short recitation of the NYPD’s version of the events that resulted in your arrest. This will generally be followed by a plea offer, which court personnel usually refer to as a “disposition offer.”If you are pleading “not guilty,” the court will then ask the District Attorney for a recommendation on whether you should be released on your own recognizance (“ROR’d”) or have bail set. Your attorney will then argue for “ROR” or lower bail, and inform the court if a friend or family member is in the audience to vouch for you. Unless you are taking a plea at the arraignment it is very unlikely that you will be asked to speak. Should you wish to say something or respond to something you have heard, it is advisable that you quietly tell the information to your attorney.

Be aware that arraignments are usually conducted at break-neck speed and the entire process will probably go by in a flash. But if something has transpired that you don’t understand or you think may result in an undesirable outcome, don’t hesitate to ask your attorney to stop and explain.

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