Written by attorney Paul J Adras

Arraignment in District Court

Following the preliminary hearing (see legal guide entitled "The Preliminary Hearing"), if the justice court judge determines that the State has met the burden of proof, the judge will bind the case and defendant over to district court. The justice court judge then schedules a second arraignment hearing. This arraignment hearing takes place in the county's district court. The district court judge asks the defendant to enter a plea to the charges alleged in a criminal information pleading document, which the defendant reviews at this hearing. If there is no plea agreement in place, and the defendant enters a not guilty plea at the district court arraignment, the district court judge will schedule two court dates.

The first court date is the calendar call. The purpose of the calendar call is for the district court judge to determine whether the prosecution and defense are prepared to proceed with a jury trial, whether a continuance is needed, or whether the parties have reached a plea agreement. The second date is the trial start date, which is typically within one week after the calendar call date.

In cases where the parties reach a plea agreement at the justice court level, the defendant will still be bound over to district court. At the arraignment in district court, the specific terms of the plea agreement will be entered upon the district court's record. The district court judge then asks the defendant a series of questions to confirm that the defendant is entering into the plea bargain knowingly, freely and voluntarily. Once the terms of the plea agreement are entered upon the court's record, a sentencing date will be set.

The district court judge then orders the defendant to immediately report to the Department of Parole and Probation (Department) for a presentence investigation interview. Following the presentence interview, the Department will prepare a presentence investigation (PSI) report for the judge, prosecution, and defense to review prior to the sentencing date, and to use during the sentencing hearing.

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