If you were recently accused of a crime, you probably have a lot on your mind and a lot of questions. You probably know how important it is to get an attorney as quickly as possible, but you may be wondering if you should have an attorney, like a criminal defense attorney at your arraignment. For that matter, you may be wondering what an arraignment is. This guide will answer both of these questions.


You can think of your arraignment as your first court appearance. You are ordered to appear in a certain courtroom at a certain time. Your arraignment will be taking place at the same time as dozens of other people’s. Usually, the arraignments are arranged in alphabetical order. First, you simply need to wait for your name to be called. In the meantime, it is a good idea to watch how the judge handles the cases leading up to yours. You might be able to see how strict he or she is and whether people have successfully had the charges reduced or removed.

When your name is called, you will need to approach the podium and speak with the judge. A few important matters must be dealt with:

  • A plea must be entered
  • A trial date must be set
  • Bail must be set
  • The possibility of a public defender will be addressed

You need to tell the court whether or not you intend to fight the charges by either pleading guilty or not guilty. If you plead guilty, you will be sentenced immediately. If you plead not guilty, a date will be set for your trial. If you need to make use of a public defender, this is the time you will be assigned one.

Your Lawyer

So do you need to have an attorney present at your arraignment? The answer is no. Most people do not bring an attorney to the arraignment. If for no other reason, not bringing an attorney means you do not need to pay your attorney for those hours. Remember, the majority of your time will be spent waiting for your name to be called, especially if your last name starts with a letter late in the alphabet. There is nothing for your attorney to do during this time.

When it is time for you to speak, it may be comforting to have an attorney present, but it is ultimately unnecessary. As long as you know what plea you want to enter, an average person can handle everything that happens at an arraignment. It is a good idea, however, to get legal advice on which plea to make in advance.