The “arraignment” process involves:
- Being brought before a Judge in the courtroom
- Receiving the “ criminal complaint” with the crimes charged and the factual basis to each charge
- The District Attorney requesting bail or releasing you on your own recognizance (called "ROR")
- Pleading guilty or not guilty
The process starts when the court officer brings you from the cell in the back of the courtroom and into the courtroom before the Judge.
If you were unable to contact your family, friends or an attorney when you were arrested then most likely the court will have a Legal Aid attorney appear for you. Legal Aid attorneys are in the courtroom at all times to defend the poor, and most times to appear for the unrepresented.
Usually there will be about three attorneys from the District Attorney’s office in the courtroom. One of them will read the charges against you and request the court to impose bail at a certain amount or no bail. If no bail is demanded by the District Attorney then you will hear the word "ROR", which means "return on your own recognizance".
Bail is determined according to the crime and your personal information. At arraignment the District Attorney will have your personal information obtained from their computer searches on you. They call this your “ rap sheet”. It will include information about you, such as:
- Any Prior convictions
- Any arrests at anytime
- Any pleas to prior arrests
If your rap sheet is clear of any crimes and this is your first arrest, chances are good that there will be no bail set against you. But even if your rap sheet is clear, if the crime you’re charged with is serious (such as involving a large amount of stolen money or violence), bail can be set against you. There are different factors affecting the setting of bail against you, and all are considered by the judge in a matter of minutes.
If the District Attorney requests bail, your attorney should argue that:
- You’re not a flight risk
- You have family, friends and a job in the state or locally
- The charges against you are improper in some way.
Your attorney may even get the whole case dismissed if the District Attorney’s criminal complaint against you is not properly drafted or signed by a proper party.
Getting The Complaint Dismissed At Arraignment
The District Attorney drafts the criminal complaint against you from information received from the arresting officer and the victim of the crime. While you’re being processed through the Precinct and Central Booking, the arresting officer will fax his paperwork and information regarding your arrest and charges to the District Attorney’s office. Someone in the District Attorney’s office will then call the victim and get more information so they can properly draft the complaint.
The complaint needs to be signed under oath by the arresting officer or the victim. If it is not signed by anyone when you appear at your arraignment then it is not "corroborated" and must be dismissed. So check out who signed the complaint: if it was a person other than the arresting officer or the victim then the complaint should be dismissed.
Lastly, if the facts of the complaint do not establish each legal element of the crime charged, or the complaint is poorly drafted then it should be dismissed however, the court usually will give the District Attorney a few weeks to file a properly drafted complaint.
Law Offices of Susan Chana Lask
853 Broadway, Suite 1516
New York, NY 10003
©2004 Susan Chana Lask All Rights Reserved
Susan Chana Lask is a New York attorney with law offices in New York City. She has over 20 years experience and practices in State, Federal and Appellate Courts nationwide, handling civil, criminal and commercial litigation and appeals. She represents high profile cases and appears on all major television, print and radio news media, earning the title "High-Powered" New York attorney. She can be reached at www.appellate-brief.com.