Yes, you can absolutely go to jail at an arraignment in California.

An arraignment is the first court appearance after an arrest. A judge will formally read the criminal charges against someone, ask them to enter a plea, and the judge will determine whether to set bail or release the defendant without bail (an “own recognizance” release).

If the defendant is denied bail or cannot make bail, they will be “remanded to custody” and they will go to jail after the arraignment.

If you or someone you know has been arrested and is awaiting arraignment, the time is right to speak with a Los Angeles defense attorney. Your attorney can attend your hearing with you, advise you on how to plead and negotiate for more favorable bail.

Contact the Helfend Law Group today at 800-834-6434 for 24/7 help for your situation.

What is an arraignment hearing?

An arraignment hearing is the initial court appearance after an arrest where you are formally charged with a crime. During this hearing, several key events take place:

  • Reading of Charges – The court officially informs you of the charges against you.
  • Entering a Plea – You will enter a plea of “guilty,” “not guilty” or “no contest” (nolo contendere). A “no contest” plea means that you choose to accept a conviction for a crime, without admitting to being guilty.
  • Appointment of Counsel – If you cannot afford an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to represent you.
  • Bail Determination – The judge will decide whether to set bail, release you on your own recognizance, or remand you to custody.

Am I entitled to an arraignment under California law?

Yes, under California law, you have a legal right to an arraignment. This hearing must occur within 48 hours of your arrest if you are in custody, excluding weekends and holidays. If you are not in custody, you will receive a notice to appear in court.

Preparing for your hearing

As we mentioned above, your arraignment should take place within two days of your arrest. That gives you a short amount of time to prepare for your hearing.

Some important steps to take include:

  • Consult an Attorney – Public defenders are overworked and underpaid, so it is not a good idea to rely on the judge to appoint counsel for you. When your freedom and reputation are on the line, a skilled criminal defense attorney can be a very useful asset. They can explain the charges, your rights and they can help start building defenses.
  • Gather Information – Collect all relevant documents, including the arrest report and any bail information. If you are in custody, your attorney can help with this.
  • Plan for Bail – Understand your options for posting bail and arrange for financial support if needed. You will get your bail money back after court proceedings are complete, as long as you follow all instructions from the court.

Do I need an attorney for an arraignment?

While you are not required to have an attorney present at your hearing, it is a very good idea to have one. A skilled lawyer can:

  • Advise You on Pleas – Your lawyer can counsel you on whether to plead guilty or plead not guilty, and the implications of each. 
  • Advocate for Bail – Argue for reasonable bail or a release on your own recognizance on your behalf.
  • Prepare a Defense – Begin building a defense strategy.

Can I postpone my arraignment if I need more time to prepare?

In some cases, you can request a continuance to postpone your arraignment. This request must be made to the court, and you will need to provide a valid reason for the delay. An attorney can help you navigate this process.

What happens at an arraignment?

An arraignment is the first formal step in the criminal court process after an arrest.

It usually involves the judge formally reading the criminal charges against the defendant, pleas, appointment of counsel, bail determinations and setting future court dates.

Reading of charges

The judge will formally read the charges against you. These charges are outlined in the criminal complaint filed by the prosecution.

Entering a plea

You will be asked to enter a plea to the charges. The types of pleas include:

  • Guilty – Admitting to the charges, leading to sentencing without a trial.
  • Not Guilty – Denying the charges, resulting in the scheduling of further court proceedings, such as a preliminary hearing or trial.
  • No Contest (Nolo Contendere) – Not admitting guilt but accepting the punishment, similar to a guilty plea without admitting fault.

Appointment of Counsel

If you do not have an attorney and cannot afford one, the court will appoint a public defender to represent you.

Bail determination

The judge will address the issue of bail. Several factors influence the judge’s decision on bail, including:

  • Nature and Severity of the Charges – Serious charges may result in higher bail amounts.
  • Flight Risk – If the judge believes you are likely to flee before trial, bail may be set higher or denied.
  • Community Safety – The judge considers whether releasing you would pose a danger to the community.
  • Criminal History – A history of prior offenses can impact bail decisions.

What happens if I can’t afford bail?

If you cannot afford bail, you have a few options:

  • Bail reduction request – You can ask the court to lower the bail amount. Your attorney can argue for a reduction based on your financial situation and other relevant factors.
  • Bail bond – You can use a bail bondsman, who will post bail on your behalf for a fee, typically a percentage of the total bail amount.
  • Remain in custody – If bail is unaffordable, you may remain in custody until your trial or until bail conditions are met.

Own recognizance releases

In some cases, the judge may release you on your own recognizance (an “OR release”), meaning you do not need to post bail but must promise to return for future court appearances. Factors influencing OR release include:

  • Strong Community Ties – Employment, family and other connections to the community can favor OR release.
  • Minimal Criminal Record – A clean or limited criminal record can increase the likelihood of OR release.

Scheduling future court dates

At the end of the hearing, the judge will set dates for future court proceedings, such as:

  • Preliminary Hearings – In felony cases, a preliminary hearing date is scheduled to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
  • Pretrial Conferences – Meetings between the defense, prosecution, and judge to discuss the case and potential plea deals.
  • Trial Dates – If the case goes to trial, the judge will set a tentative trial date.

Facing criminal charges can be intimidating, to say the least. You need a criminal defense attorney who has what it takes to not only get you the most favorable result possible in your arraignment, but can defend your freedom throughout the criminal justice process.

In more than 40 years practicing in the Los Angeles area, attorney Robert M. Helfend of the Helfend Law Group has defended thousands of cases to favorable results, earning accolades from prestigious groups like SuperLawyers and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100. Call today for 24/7 help – 800-834-6434.

Published June 11, 2024.