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What Happens at an "Arraignment" in Michigan?

By Daniel T. Geherin

Are you looking for the best criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County?

While some criminal justice concepts are self-explanatory (i.e., trial; sentencing; jail), others are confusing to those “outside” the system.  For example, most people have never experienced an “Arraignment” on a criminal charge, and can’t visualize exactly what’s involved in that process.   

Dan Geherin, owner of the Geherin Law Group PLLC in Ann Arbor, is an ex-prosecutor and board-certified criminal trial attorney who exclusively handles cases with a criminal justice element.  As part of this practice, he represents hundreds of clients charged with criminal offenses each year.  And, the majority of these clients have never been in trouble before, so they don’t always understand or recognize how the criminal justice system operates.  Thus, Dan often gets early questions like this:

“What is an Arraignment?”
“What will I have to say at Arraignment?"
“Do I have to post bond?”
“What happens if I don’t have an attorney at Arraignment?”

An Arraignment is typically the first formal step of the criminal justice court process.  After a police investigation, arrest, and charge, a person enters the court system via an Arraignment process.   This Arraignment either takes place while the defendant is in police/jail custody, or on a “walk-in” basis after being notified of a criminal charge.  Arraignments are conducted by either a Magistrate or Judge, and are either in-court or via videoconference to a jail/police department.  The Magistrate or Judge will typically inform the defendant of the charge(s), and advise on other statutory/constitutional rights.  In some instances, the Magistrate/Judge will ask the defendant how/she wants to proceed (either by denying the charges/pleading not guilty, or in rare instances, by taking responsibility/pleading guilty).

Defendants who are Arraigned while in custody are often unrepresented, so they have to either fend for themselves (and hope they say the right thing, or conversely, don’t say something harmful to their case) or hope the court appoints an attorney.  Fortunate defendants have family members or friends who retain an attorney to appear at the Arraignment; truly smart defendants have retained criminal defense attorneys long before the Arraignment and thus can rely on their help once the case reaches the formal court process.

One of the most important decisions at Arraignment surrounds bond/bail.  A Magistrate/Judge can either release the defendant on personal recognizance bond (often with various conditions attached), or can require a cash bond to secure the defendant’s future appearances.  In some rare instances (mostly capital offenses, like murder), a Magistrate/Judge can deny bond altogether.  Obviously, having a skilled and respected attorney make bond arguments can mean the difference between release and a high/unreasonable bond.  When freedom is at stake, there’s no better time or greater need for representation. 

In some instances, a court might waive, cancel or combine the Arraignment when an Attorney files an Appearance on a defendant’s behalf.  This is especially common for misdemeanor cases.   This can save a client from having to come to court, and often reduces the bond/bail exposure and risk of incarceration.  Again, this is yet another strong reason to retain a criminal defense attorney as early in the investigation as reasonable.

Following Arraignment, the case proceeds through the justice system, often progressing to a pretrial conference or probable cause conference, hearings, trial, and sentencing where applicable.  Those conditions set at Arraignment (including stay-away orders, travel restrictions, drug/alcohol testing, and other freedom limitations) often continue throughout the long road of the system, which can take months and even years. 

Criminal Defense Attorney Washtenaw County - Dan Geherin

For questions about Arraignments (or in general) in any criminal case, please contact Dan Geherin, a criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County.  We have the resources, experience, and will to match the prosecution and protect our clients’ interests.  Contact Us to schedule online, or call 24/7 (734) 263-2780.   GLG Michigan:  Handling criminal cases—from investigation through trial---in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and all over Southeastern Michigan. 




Geherin Law Group
Criminal Defense Attorney in Washtenaw County