Arraignment Explained

An arraignment is the formal reading of charges against an individual. It is the first opportunity for an accused to enter a formal plea.  In our modern times, most defendants dispense with the formal reading of the charges against them.  This is called waiving formal arraignment.  Usually, they are provided with a copy of the indictment and accusation.  

In Georgia, arraignment sets a timer running on the filing of motions related to the case.  Typically, a defendant has ten days to file any motions and demurrers in the case, although the court can allow additional time to file such motions.  Most motions filed at or closely after arraignment are basic in nature: requests for discovery , challenge to the voluntariness of any statements, preliminary challenge to the seizure of any evidence from the defendant.  Some of those motions, like motions to suppress,  will have to be particularized after discovery is received.  Any challenge to the array of the grand jury would have to be brought at this early stage.  Any challenge to the assigned judge being allowed to hear the case because of conflicts of interest has to be brought within five days of learning of the assignment.

If you have an attorney prior to arraignment, some courts will allow your attorney to waive your arraignment and enter a written non guilty plea on your behalf, avoiding your having to appear in court on the arraignment date.  Not all courts will allow this, but it is a good management of resources for those that do allow it.  If you do not have an attorney hired before arraignment, you will need to appear and you will likely be directed to apply for representation by the public defender's office.  If you qualify on the basis of need, you will have a lawyer assigned to you.  If you do not qualify, you may go back before the judge for inquiry as to your efforts to hire a lawyer or whether the court will appoint you a lawyer notwithstanding your failure to meet the state indigence standards.

A defendant has a right to be present for an arraignment, but that right can be waived if allowed by the court.  

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