The Sixth Amendment to U.S. Constitution guarantees that defendants shall "be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against them." Arraignment is the first stage of a criminal proceeding where the defendant is officially called before a court and informed of the offense charged in the complaint or other charging document. A defendant may be brought in court for arraignment after being arrested or notified of a pending charge or warrant . At arraignment, the Judge or Magistrate will ask the defendant to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or stand mute. In Michigan, the Judge or Magistrate will determine whether the accused will be required to be released only upon payment of bond or allow release of the defendant on his or her own recognizance. A personal recognizance bond does not require the payment of any money unless the defendant fails to appear at his or her court hearings. The Judge or Magistrate may also set certain bond conditions upon the release of a defendant after bond is posted. For example, in domestic violence cases, a defendant may be ordered to refrain from contacting the victim. In extreme cases involving stalking or flight risk, the court may require greater control over a defendant and impose Global Posititioning Monitoring (GPS). GPS requires a defendant to wear an ankle device which is keyed in and allows for monitoring of his movements. The cost for the device is imposed on the defendant. In cases involving drinking, the court may require a defendant to wear an alcohol monitoring device or regularly tested for alcohol and/or drugs. It is at the arraignment where the court will advise a defendant of his right to counsel and allow the defendant to request a court appointed attorney if he or she cannot afford to hire an attorney. Most courts have an application for court appointed counsel which includes financial information and resources of the defendant. Lastly, if the defendant is charged with a felony, the court will schedule the defendant's preliminary examination at the arraignment. In Michigan, a preliminary examination must be scheduled within 14 calendar days following the arraignment (felony cases only). There is no right to a preliminary examination for misdemeanors. In Michigan, the court may allow a person to waive arraignment for a misdemeanor charge. Upon arraignment or waiver of the same, the court will scheduled a pretrial conference. The pre-trial conference occurs between the prosecutor and you (or your attorney) to discuss the case. The police officer may also be notified to appear at the pretrial conference. A plea bargain may be made at this stage or a case may be scheduled for motion hearings or trial if a plea bargain is not achieved to the satisfaction of a defendant. Plea bargains are often beneficial to the defendant as well as the prosecutor to resolve cases without trial. For defendants, a plea bargain may be negotiated to a much lower charge. In Michigan, crime victims are also involved in the plea bargaining process and may pose objections or obstacles to resolving cases by putting pressure on the prosecutor.
Criminal Defense Attorney