If you have been arrested in Pennsylvania, a criminal record, a fine, and a jail term are the possible outcomes of a criminal charge. But this doesn’t have to be your fate. The arraignment process is among the most critical part of your case. Understanding and being able to differentiate the preliminary and the formal arraignment processes can prepare you for what is yet to come.

For best outcomes, accused persons should involve a civilian and military defense lawyer as soon as they are arrested. While the victim is not required in the arraignment process, other legal proceedings need you to work with a professional.

Are There Rules Regarding Arraignments?

Rule 540 of Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure governs the procedures at a preliminary arraignment. They include:

  • The preliminary arraignment should happen within 72 hours of your arrest
  • Where applicable, a copy of the supporting affidavit and a warrant should be handed to the defendant during the preliminary arraignment. If it is not ready at the time, it should be availed within the next business day.
  • The accused can communicate confidentially with his/her attorney before and during the arraignment
  • Two-way simultaneous audio-visual communication may be used during the arraignment, but the court’s discretion prevails
  • In cases involving minors that are accused of offenses outside a “delinquent act,” their custodian, guardian, or parent should be notified before arraignment

What Happens at the Preliminary Arraignment?

At the preliminary arraignment, you should not be questioned about the charges facing you. Instead, the magistrate or judge will read out your complaint.

Thereafter, the court ought to inform you:

  • About your right to an assigned counsel, and your right to choose and appoint another attorney
  • About your right to a preliminary hearing
  • Whether the offense is eligible for bail, the type of bail, and the amount of bail you are required to pay

Is Bail Set During a Preliminary Arraignment?

Depending on the seriousness of the criminal charges against you, the judge or magistrate can set bail for the defendant during the preliminary arraignment. For minor offenses like DUI, you may be qualified for your own recognizance (O.R.) where there are no conditions for the release, and you don’t pay anything.

While you may not pay any money for unsecured bonds, you will be released on the condition that you restrain from doing certain things. Serious offenses require you to pay a certain sum of money to guarantee the court that you will appear for future proceedings. Not to worry, because you will have sufficient time to notify your Lemoyne bail attorney and your family, or even get a bond dealer to help pay.

What if Bail is Not Posted After Preliminary Arraignment?

Your family and friends have exactly two hours after the preliminary arraignment to post bail for your release. If they are unable to pay within that period, you will be moved to jail and wait to be processed within 24 hours or longer.

If your loved ones post bail shortly after the elapse of the two hours, you may not be released until you are processed.

Is Preliminary Arraignment Face-to-Face or Via Video?

Rule 540 allows the court to use its discretion in deciding on the mode of proceedings. So, you may be asked to appear for the arraignment in person, or audio-visual communication could be used.

What Happens at the Formal Arraignment?

At the formal arraignment, the courthouse clerks will inform you about the exact charges against you. The court will also notify you of your ability to now file pre-trial motions and request discovery. Remember that certain pleadings have a deadline, and you may lose your right to file some motions 30 days after the arraignment.

You will also be informed that future proceedings will still go on even if you fail to appear. The court will also require you to sign the paperwork you receive to verify that you are aware of the criminal charges and your rights as the defendant.

Eventually, you will take a plea, and your criminal defense attorney will advise you on whether to plead guilty or not guilty — but a “not guilty” plea can give you more time to work on the best defense.

Do You Need an Attorney at the Formal Arraignment?

A knowledgeable violent crimes attorney in Lemoyne is necessary from the moment you are arrested to the end of your case. Having a lawyer at the formal arraignment ensures that they receive the criminal information first-hand and file for discovery as soon as possible. 

You will also get a chance to discuss the charges with your attorney as they advise you on potential defenses. They can help you take advantage of pre-trial provisions like asking the court to exclude certain pieces of evidence

What Should You Do at a Formal Arraignment?

Accused persons have a right to communicate with their defense attorney fully during an arraignment. They can also choose to remain silent during the proceedings. Remember that silence is also a plea – a guilty plea. You may not want to speak, but it is essential that you listen to understand your rights and responsibilities.

What Happens if I Plead Guilty at an Arraignment?

If you plead guilty, you may receive your sentence during the arraignment. Alternatively, the judge may set another date for the sentencing.

In instances where you entered a plea agreement, your sentence is usually reduced and pre-determined. Thus, the judge will only need to double-check as you proceed to serve the jail term.

A Legal Counsel to Help You Navigate the PA Court Process

Whether it’s your first time or you have been arrested and arraigned before, facing a criminal charge is definitely overwhelming – whether a civilian or a member of the armed forces.

The thought of losing your freedom and the life you have built for years is scary. But a criminal defense attorney in Lemoyne, PA, can help prepare accused persons for the technical court process.

If you are arrested today, exercise the rights accorded in the 5th amendment, refrain from speaking about the offense, and demand to talk to your lawyer before your arraignment date. Call R. Davis Younts on (717) 612 4840 for a free strategy session.