Can A Victim Attend An Arraignment?

Yes, the victim can attend an arraignment.

In fact, the victim probably has a lot of rights in the case that he or she should know about.

In the article that follows, we’ll explain what an arraignment is, what the victim should expect to happen in an arraignment (so he can decide if he wants to attend), and what rights the victim has at the arraignment.

Can A Victim Attend An Arraignment? (EXPLAINED)


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What Is An Arraignment?

Arraignments are simple hearings, and not a lot that is very exciting is accomplished.

An arraignment is the defendant’s first official appearance in court on a particular case or charge.

The purpose of the hearing is to notify the defendant of the charges pending against him officially, as well as of his rights in the proceeding.

Other practical things that occur in an arraignment include:

  • giving the defendant a physical copy of the charges
  • confirming the defendant’s personal information is correct
  • confirming if the defendant has or will hire an attorney, or if he needs to ne evaluated for a court appointed lawyer
  • setting bail, bond, or security for release
  • setting rules for release if the defendant does not have to remain in custody
  • entering the defendant’s initial plea

At arraignment, the defendant usually enters a not-guilty plea to all charges, even if the defendant is actually guilty and believes in his guilt.

The reason for a not guilty plea at this stage is that the defendant cannot enter a guilty plea in court until he has had a chance to talk to a lawyer about his case, review the evidence, and discuss his case options.

A guilty plea cannot be entered ‘knowingly and voluntarily” until he has had a chance to talk to an attorney and review the evidence in the case.

What Happens In Arraignments?

Arraignments are usually short hearings, sometimes less than a minute.

The judge calls the name of the defendant, who will either approach counsel table if out of custody, or stand if he is in custody.

His lawyer, if he has one, will stand with him.

The judge will confirm the case number for the record, and confirm with the defense that the personal details are correct.

The judge will offer to read the charges to him, as well as his rights in the case.

Usually defense counsel waives this (meaning says its okay if the reading is passed over).

Then the judge will ask for the plea, which will be given as “not guilty.”

Then the judge will confirm the terms of release, ask for argument on security/bond, and set the next hearing.

Is There Anything For The Victim To Do At Arraignments?

Yes, but not too much.

In some instances, the victim has the right to speak up about safety considerations as far as the defendant’s release at arraignment, the security amount, as well as any no contact orders.

But this is not an opportunity to speak generally about what happened in the case, or offer evidence for or against the defendant.

In general, if the victim wants to be heard on any of these matters, the court will schedule a separate hearing on another day to be able to focus on the case.

The arraignment docket is usually very full, and much needs to be accomplished in a very short period of time.

If the victim thinks that she wants to be heard at the arraignment, it would be best to notify the prosecutor in advance so that prosecutor could help make the arrangements for a separate hearing.

The victim can also hire her own attorney to assist her with advocating for herself at these hearings.

Can The Victim Have Contact With The Defendant At Arraignment?

It depends.

If there is a no contact order in place between the victim and the defendant, the defendant cannot approach the victim without violating it (which could result in sanctions).

Being present in the same courtroom will not cause a violation of the order, but if the defendant tries to go to the victim in any way, speak to her, or cause any third party to communicate to her, it could be a violation of the no contact order.

If there is not a no contact order in place, the victim and the defendant can have contact.

Whether that is a good idea depends upon the case and the facts.

Wrap Up

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Can A Victim Attend An Arraignment