Arraignment is the process in Maryland whereby a Judge advises a defendant of their rights prior to trial. This includes the criminal charges the defendant is facing, the maximum penalties and their right to counsel.
An arraignment is a court proceeding that occurs after someone has been arrested. Being arrested is not the same as being formally charged with a crime – this begins with the arraignment. However, arraignments also have many other important legal purposes.
They allow defendants to hear exactly what the charges are, the maximum penalties – a requirement of the 6th Amendment – and they give a defendant a chance to see the prosecuting attorney for the first time and to be assigned counsel if necessary.
The arraignment typically takes place between the preliminary hearing (if one is necessary) and the trial.
What Happens at an Arraignment
An arrestee is not legally a criminal until convicted – a process which begins with charging the arrestee with a specific crime. In Maryland, this starts with bringing an arrestee to court typically “without unnecessary delay” and within 24 hours of the arrest.
The court then goes through several important steps, depending on the nature of the charges. A misdemeanor arraignment is likely to be faster and simpler, while a felony arraignment will usually include more steps.
First, the court will determine if there is probable cause for the arrest (if necessary – if a warrant has been issued, this step is not necessary). But the defendant may not be aware of the charges involved in the arrest, especially at this early stage. So the court will then provide information on the nature of the charges and the potential result (mandatory penalties, etc.) of those charges in case of a conviction. A hard copy of this information will be given to the defendant.
The court will also take this time to advise the defendant of right to counsel if the defendant does not already have an attorney. This is the opportunity for a defendant to be assigned an attorney if necessary.
In the case of a felony arraignment, the process also provides the time necessary for the court to set bail. Setting bail depends a wide variety of factors, from the nature of the charges to the financial position of the defendant. Defendants are given an opportunity to ask for a particular bail amount or for bail to be waived because of individual circumstances. Defendants that pose a flight risk or those being charged with violent crimes will often be denied bail.
After the Arraignment
After the arraignment, the defendant’s counsel will be able to study the charges in detail and advise the defendant regarding important laws. The case will then move forward according to a schedule set by the court.
Contact an attorney before your arraignment or as soon as possible after to begin the defense of your case. Attorney Randolph Rice is a Maryland criminal defense trial attorney. He is recognized by Super Lawyers as a Maryland Rising Star in criminal defense. He is a former Assistant State’s Attorney, ranked by Avvo 10 out of 10 and Lead Counsel Rated.
Contact attorney Randolph Rice at (410) 694-7291 or visit his office to schedule a free confidential consultation.