1. What is an arraignment?
An arraignment is a formal hearing at which
a defendant accused of a crime is brought before the Court to plea to
the charges brought against him/her. The defendant is made aware
of the charges, the legal rights and at this time, may enter a plea
of guilty or not guilty before the Court.
2. How is a person notified of an arraignment hearing?
All parties who must attend the arraignment
are notified in writing with a subpoena or notice by the Court.
If there is a victim in the case they are notified, but they are not
required to attend the hearing unless otherwise noted on their subpoena/notice.
3. Should I hire a lawyer?
Every defendant in a criminal case at Family
Court has a right to have a lawyer. It is up to the defendant
to seek a lawyer prior to his/her Court date.
4. If I want a lawyer, but can’t afford one, what should
Before you appear in Court, if you want a lawyer but feel you cannot
afford one, you should contact the Public Defender’s Office to see if
you qualify for their services:
5. What happens at an arraignment
At the arraignment hearing, your legal rights
will be explained to you. The charges against you will be explained
either by the Deputy Attorney General or your lawyer. In the arraignment
hearing, the judicial officer (judge or commissioner) will inform you
of the charges filed against you, your right to plead guilty or not
guilty, and your right to a speedy trial. The judicial officer
will then ask if you wish to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
6. Is an arraignment hearing required?
An arraignment is required in all criminal
cases; however, a defendant may enter a plea of not guilty prior to
the arraignment by filing a Rule 10 with the hearing officer’s office.
The arraignment stage would then be bypassed which will automatically
send your case to a trial. You would receive written notification
of your trial date.
7. Who hears an arraignment?
Family Court has two types of hearing officers:
Commissioners, and Judges. All three can hear arraignments; however,
they are primarily heard by Commissioners. Your written notification
will have the name of the hearing officer for your case on it.
8. Can I be forced to take a plea agreement at arraignment?
No. All defendants have a right to
a trial in Family Court. Taking a plea is an option, but cannot
be forced on you.
9. If I enter a plea at arraignment, will I be sentenced
the same day?
In most cases you will be sentenced the same
day you enter a plea. There are some circumstances that would
delay sentencing, and in those cases you would be mailed written notification
of a sentencing date or you could be held at a detention facility or
prison unless you can post bail. The hearing officer could also
order that a presentence investigation be completed before sentencing.
The sentencing date would be rescheduled and you would be mailed a notice.
10. Can I get my arraignment continued?
Requests for continuances must be in writing prior to the arraignment
date. Written requests must contain the reason for the continuance,
defendant information, and the date and time of the hearing as well
as the position of the opposing party (DAG) and whether the case has
been continued before. Requests must be filed in a timely manner
and verification of the circumstances may be requested by the hearing
officer. It is up to the hearing officer to decide, based on your
circumstances, if your case will be continued or not. You must
appear for your hearing, unless the Court or your attorney has excused
you from appearing on your hearing date.