First time in handcuffs? Then you probably want to know what to expect at your arraignment. It all depends on whether you posted bail, failed to post bail, or were released following your arrest. While the structure is supposed to be the same your circumstances and charges largely dictate what happens that day.
Let me preface this with the caveat that each case is unique. Seriously, your prior record, immigration status, job status, etc., can have a very real effect on how things play out. Additionally, the charges can alter the procedures for example, if you are arrested for domestic violence the scenario is different. But generally speaking your arraignment will procedurally unfold something like I explain below.
Scenario 1 – I was released and told to appear
You will arrive at the courthouse at about 9am. You need to go check in with the state’s attorney (prosecutor). Now, each courthouse is different. Some courthouses have those charged with a crime report to the prosecutors’ office, some to the courtroom, other will have those charged gather in the hallway. It is okay to ask the nice uniformed judicial marshals who greet you at the door of the courthouse where to go.
If there are multiple courtrooms then somewhere in the main hallway, after you pass through the metal detectors, you will see a list of all the cases set to be called that day. You can find your name on that list and it will usually indicate which courtroom you will be in once the judge is ready to hear cases.
This may be a different courtroom than where you met the prosecutor when you first arrived. It is okay to confirm which courtroom with the prosecutor.
You do not and should not speak substantively with the prosecutor about your case. If you will be seeking a criminal defense attorney you don’t want to make a statement that can be used against you. If you will be applying for the public defender, you don’t want to make a statement that can be used against you. You are going there to let the state’s attorney and the judge know you obeyed and arrived on time.
Court will not open until at least 10:00am, but if you show up too late your name goes to the bottom of the pile and you might not have your case called until after lunch.
When the courtroom opens you sit in the benches and when your case is called you walk to the front of the courtroom and appear before the judge.
This is the actual arraignment – the opportunity for the judge to decide whether the bond that was previously set is appropriate, too high, or too low. The judge may also add conditions – like don’t drive, no contact with the alleged victim, etc.
Generally, the judge will go along with the bond set, especially if you have been released from custody and stayed out of trouble between your arrest and the court date. The judge, however can, and sometimes does modify it at this time. If the judge raises the bond you will be placed in handcuffs and brought to a holding cell. You will be able to contact a bail bonds person to try and secure bail. If you can’t you will be brought to a jail where you will stay until you make bond or your case is resolved/sentence served.
Scenario 2 – I am still in jail and will be arraigned
You will be transported to the courthouse and placed in a holding cell. Usually around 11:30am or so you will be brought up to the courtroom to appear before the judge. Again, this is the actual arraignment – the opportunity for the judge to decide whether the bond that was set at the time of your arrest was appropriate, too high, or too low. The judge may also add conditions – like don’t drive, no contact with the alleged victim, etc.
A bail commissioner, who is an employee of the State of Connecticut will make a recommendation on the amount of bail appropriate, the state’s attorney will chime in, and you will have the opportunity to argue for lower bail usually through either a private attorney you hired or a public defender.
Things can get tricky if you were already out on bond for a previous criminal charge and then were arrested again. There are some issues with credit for time served, etc. A little too complex for this post, but when you are talking about lost liberty you probably should get a criminal defense attorney.
Since you are already in holding you didn’t make bail initially, so if the judge raises the bond you will be sent back to jail, if the judge lowers bail you can try to make bail at this reduced amount. If you can’t you will be brought to a jail where you will stay until you make bond or your case is resolved/sentence served.
WORD OF CAUTION – Confessing to a crime will not get you out or lower your bond. It will ensure a conviction so don’t get desperate. This will cost you in the long run. Better to do a day or a month behind bars than years.