WHAT IS AN ARRAIGNMENT?
By T. Maddox-Levine, Esq,
The Law Offices of Maddox Levine PLLC
April 22, 2020
The arraignment is just the initial court proceeding in the case.
How does that work in DC?
After an arrest and processing at the station house, a person can be released on “citation” for traffic and other minor misdemeanors, so long as they have no open/pending cases and are not on probation/supervised release. If that happens, they are given an actual citation to return to court on a specific date and time to be formally charged before a judge. The proceeding in which the person is formally charged is called an “arraignment”. (Felony cases and situations where a person cannot be released on citation are more complicated and are not addressed here.)Understandably, the first question after release on a citation case is “what now”? In DC, the next step in misdemeanor and traffic cases is the “arraignment”.
What happens at Arraignment?
At arraignment, the accused either:
- appears with an attorney, who they retained ahead of time, OR
- is appointed a lawyer from the Criminal Justice Act panel (which provides counsel to those who are financially disadvantaged)
At arraignment, the attorney should then make demands and requests “on the record” and also enter a plea of ‘not guilty' on their client's behalf before the presiding judge.
The amount of time the accused actually stands before the court is literally a couple of minutes with an experienced attorney, barring any issues that must be argued to ensure release or any arguments about specific conditions of release (i.e. drug testing, do not drive orders, or GPS monitoring) that the client/counsel may find objectionable.
After release, the accused, now called the “defendant” is ordered to report to Pre-Trial Services (PSA), which is an arm of the government that supervises those on release until:
- the conclusion of the case, OR
- until supervision is no longer required due to compliance with all ordered conditions of release and/or no additional recommendations by PSA
whichever comes first.
SOME NOTES ABOUT PSA: After reporting to the PSA office, PSA will verify the person's address by sending the person mail and having them phone in to say when the mail is received. PSA also administers drug tests and/or assessments as ordered by the Court. PSA then reports back to the judge about any recommendations made or issues arising regarding compliance. So long as PSA reports that the defendant is “compliant”, the judge remains satisfied that the release conditions put in place at arraignment are sufficient to assure the safety of the community and/or the defendant's return to court; so no changes will be requested/ordered concerning release while the case continues. However, if PSA reports back to the judge that the defendant is NON-compliant, then a hearing is held, and the person could be stepped back (immediately following the hearing) and held in jail pending the conclusion of the case.
At the conclusion of the arraignment proceeding, a “status hearing date” will be set by the Court for a future date.
Between the arraignment and status dates, the following should occur:
- the case should be investigated,
- discovery should be received and reviewed by the defense team and shared with the client
- possible defenses should be explored by the attorney,
- disposition options should be negotiated (where appropriate), and finally
- the law, options, and attorney's recommendations should be reviewed with the client, so that. The client can be informed and empowered to make the best decision possible regarding how to proceed in his/her case.
That's knowledge you can use.
DUI Defense Team at the Law Offices of Maddox Levine PLLC
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