Criminal arraignment is the process in which a person accused of committing a crime is brought before a court to enter a plea. The arraignment process is an important step in the criminal justice system as it sets the tone for the rest of the trial process. In Texas, the arraignment process is a crucial step in the criminal justice system that outlines the rights of the accused and provides an opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. It is important for you to have a competent team like ours here at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to help you through this process.
What is An Arraignment?
An arraignment is a formal court hearing where a criminal defendant is brought before a judge to hear the charges against them and enter a plea.. Also, an arraignment in Texas is the defendant's first court appearance after being arrested and formally charged with a crime. The defendant is informed of the charges against them, and the judge reads the indictment, information or complaint filed by the prosecution.
An arraignment typically takes place within a few days of the arrest and the accused is brought before a judge to be formally charged. At this stage, the accused has the right to legal representation and if they cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for them.
During the arraignment process, the defendant is required to enter a plea to the charges. The defendant has three options for their plea: guilty, not guilty or no contest. The judge can impose a sentence immediately if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest. If the defendant pleads not guilty, the case will proceed to trial.
If the defendant is indigent and cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender or a court-appointed attorney to represent them. If the defendant has retained a private attorney, the attorney will represent the defendant during the arraignment and throughout the case. During the arraignment, the judge will also set the conditions of the defendant's release pending trial, including bail or bond, and any conditions of release, such as drug testing or electronic monitoring. If the accused pleads not guilty, the case will move to the next stage of the trial process. If the accused pleads guilty, the judge will typically set a date for sentencing.
What Happens During the Arraignment Process?
Here's what typically happens during a criminal arraignment in Texas:
Charges are Read
During a criminal arraignment, the judge will typically read the charges against the defendant. The judge will inform the defendant of the specific charges they are facing and explain the potential penalties they may face if found guilty. This is an important part of the arraignment process, as it ensures the defendant understands the charges against them and the seriousness of the situation.
The prosecutor can also provide additional information about the charges, such as the specific statute that the defendant is accused of violating and the potential penalties they could face if they are convicted. The prosecutor might also provide any other relevant details about the case, such as witness statements or physical evidence.
After the charges have been read, the judge will ask the defendant if he or she understands the charges against them. The defendant must answer affirmatively to this question before they can proceed with the arraignment. If the defendant does not understand the charges, the judge may provide further clarification or postpone the arraignment until the defendant understands the charges better.
Pleas are Entered
Once the defendant has acknowledged they understand the charges, the judge will ask the defendant to enter a plea. In Texas, during a criminal arraignment, the defendant can typically make one of three types of pleas:
Guilty plea: The defendant admits to committing the crime and accepts responsibility for their actions. The case will proceed to sentencing if the defendant enters a guilty plea.
Not guilty plea: The defendant denies the charges and asserts their innocence. The case will proceed to trial if the defendant enters a not-guilty plea.
No contest (or nolo contendere) plea: The defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges that there is enough evidence to support a conviction. A no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes but cannot be used against the defendant in a civil lawsuit related to the same incident.
It's important to note the defendant has the right to change their plea at any point in the legal process, but doing so may have consequences for their case. It's highly recommended the defendant consults with an experienced criminal defense attorney before entering any plea.
Rights are Explained
During the arraignment hearing in Texas, the judge will typically explain the defendant's constitutional rights. Some of these rights include:
The right to counsel: The defendant can be represented by an attorney during the arraignment and throughout the case. If the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint one.
The right to remain silent: The defendant has the right to remain silent and not incriminate themselves. Anything the defendant says during the arraignment can be used against them later in the case.
The right to a speedy trial: The right to a speedy trial is another fundamental right that must be upheld during the arraignment process. The accused has the right to a trial within a reasonable amount of time and delays in the trial process must be justified.
The right to confront witnesses: The defendant has the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses who testify against them during the trial.
The right to a jury trial: The defendant has the right to a trial by a jury of their peers, where the jury will determine guilt or innocence.
If the defendant is in custody at the time of the arraignment, the judge can conduct a bail hearing to determine if bail should be granted and if so, the amount of bail required. During the bail hearing, the judge will consider several factors, including the severity of the charges, the defendant's criminal history, ties to the community and the risk of flight or danger to the community.
The judge may then set the amount of bail required for the defendant's release or deny bail altogether if they determine the defendant poses a significant flight risk or danger to the community. It's important to note that bail hearing procedures may vary depending on the county and court where the case is being heard.
Next Court Date is Set
The judge can schedule another hearing or trial during a criminal arraignment if necessary. This can happen for various reasons, such as if the defendant needs more time to obtain legal representation, if there are outstanding discovery requests or if there are scheduling conflicts with the parties involved in the case.
If the defendant is represented by an attorney, the judge may consult with them to determine the most convenient time for the next hearing. However, if the defendant does not have an attorney, the judge may set a date without input from the defendant. It's important to note the judge's decision to reschedule the hearing is based on the case's specific circumstances and it's at their discretion to do so.
The arraignment process is a crucial step in the criminal justice system in Texas. It sets the tone for the rest of the trial process and ensures that the accused is fully aware of the charges against them and their rights as defendants.
The accused has several fundamental rights that must be upheld during the arraignment process, including the right to legal representation, the right to remain silent, the right to a speedy trial, the right to a trial by jury and the right to confront witnesses. If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in Texas, it is important to seek competent legal representation to ensure your rights are upheld throughout the trial process.
For more info, check out these common questions about Criminal Arraignments in Texas. And please let us know how we can start helping you today, by calling our office at: 281-810-9760.
What is a criminal arraignment in Texas?
A criminal arraignment is a court proceeding where a defendant is formally charged with a crime, and they enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The judge will also set bail, which is the amount of money the defendant must pay to be released from jail pending their trial.
When does a criminal arraignment take place in Texas?
In Texas, a criminal arraignment usually takes place within 48 hours of the defendant's arrest if they are in custody. If the defendant is out on bail or released on their recognizance, the arraignment will be scheduled for a later date.
What happens during a criminal arraignment in Texas?
During a criminal arraignment in Texas, the defendant is informed of the charges against them, and they must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The judge will also set bail if the defendant is in custody, and they will advise the defendant of their rights.
What should I do if I am charged with a crime in Texas?
If you are charged with a crime in Texas, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand your charges, prepare a defense strategy, and represent you in court.
Can I change my plea after the arraignment in Texas?
In Texas, a defendant can change their plea after the arraignment, but it can be difficult to do so. If you plead guilty, you will need to show that there was a legal or factual error that justifies withdrawing your plea. If you plead not guilty, you will need to convince the judge that there is a valid reason for changing your plea. It is always best to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney before changing your plea.