OVA: Arraignment


An arraignment is a brief appearance before the judge that starts the courtroom phase of a criminal prosecution.  The suspect, now called the defendant, is formally accused of having committed the crime(s) being charged.  The defendant is allowed to apply for court-appointed counsel (public defender) if s/he qualifies because of indigency.  The defendant will enter an initial plea to the charges; almost always, the defendant will enter a "not guilty" plea at this stage.  The judge will decide any unresolved bail issues; bail and conditions of release may be set, revoked, raised, or lowered.


If your case involves domestic/family violence, the case will be sent to a part of the court called Family Services for an investigation and review.  Family Services is a part of the court that gathers information for the court and develops recommendations for the prosecutor and judge about what should be done in family violence cases, including whether a protective order should be issued.  A Family Services Counselor will talk to each of the people involved in the case and try to determine what has been happening and what the court should do.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TALK TO FAMILY SERVICES.  But, if you refuse, the prosecutor and judge may not know what you want or need.


If your partner has been arrested and you have not, you are not legally required to be in court.  If you need a protective order, then you should go to court or contact either the Family Service Counselor or a local Family Violence Victim Advocate.




If you go to court, the first person you should look for is the Family Violence Victim Advocate.  Ask a marshal or someone in the clerk's office how to find him/her.  The advocate can give you information, will listen to your concerns, will help you ask the court for protection if you want her to, and will help you understand all your options.  The Family Violence Victim Advocate can also put you in touch with the local domestic violence program which can offer you shelter for you and your children as well as support groups and other services. If the Family Violence Victim Advocate is not there, you can talk to the Family Services Counselor.


Conversations with a Family Violence Victim Advocate are confidential.  Conversations with other people who work in the court may not be confidential.



Advisement of rights


Arraignment court begins by advising criminal defendants and crime victims of their rights. 


First, the constitutional rights of criminal defendants (also called the Miranda rights) will be read aloud in open court.  The advisement of rights is typically done prior to the calling of the first case on the court calendar with all of the defendants who are to be arraigned that day brought into the courtroom before the judge.  


In Connecticut, immediately after the advisement of rights to the criminal defendants the judge will then advise any and all crime victims in the courtroom as to their state constitutional rights.


After defendants and crime victims have been advised of their rights, the court will begin to call each case one-by-one.


It is advisable that you arrive at court at least one-half hour before court opens at 10:00 a.m. (the doors open at 9:00 a.m.).  You should go to the state attorney's office and ask that the state's attorney handling the arraignment docket for the day be advised that you are present and would like to speak to the state's attorney about the case before the case is called.


You may be informed that the state's attorney will not be able to talk to you before the court session begins.  You may be advised to go to the court-based victim advocate's office and to discuss the case with the advocate.  If you were injured as a result of the crime(s) committed against you, the court-based victim advocate should be consulted.  (For more information about the duties and responsibilities of court-based victim advocates, please visit the "Victim Services" link on this website). If you were not injured, you will not be eligible for the services of a court-based victim advocate. 


Advisement of charges, Appointment of attorney, Entry of initial plea


For each case called for arraignment, if the defendant cannot afford to hire an attorney the court will appoint an attorney to represent him/her in court.  The criminal charges against the defendant will be read and the court will ask the defendant whether s/he pleads guilty or not guilty.  In the vast majority of cases, at the arraignment stage of a criminal prosecution, the defendant will enter a plea of "not guilty."  This initial "not guilty" plea is simply a formality; the entry of such a plea enables the criminal justice process to move forward.


Review of Bond


The judge may also review and modify the current bond conditions at arraignment, particularly if the defendant was unable to meet the conditions of bond set earlier by the police and/or bail commissioner. 


The judge will hear arguments from the stateís attorney, defense counsel and the crime victim concerning the amount and conditions of the bond.  Since crime victims in Connecticut have a right to be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process, the victim can request that the judge issue a court order prohibiting the defendant from having any contact with the victim. 


Restraining orders, Protective orders, and No contact orders.


After considering all available information about the defendant, the judge will decide the type of release which is the least restrictive means of assuring that the defendant will appear in court in the future.


At arraignment, the judge will hear arguments for and against the type and amount of bond that was set by the police or the Bail Commissioner.  The judge will then decide the bond type, the bond amount, and any non-financial conditions under which the suspect can be released.


For all but a certain number of crimes, the types of bond the judge can consider in deciding whether to release the defendant are similar to those types considered by the Bail Commissioner (see above).  Like the Bail Commissioner, the judge must order the release of the defendant upon the first of the types of release found sufficient to assure the defendant's appearance in court.  For most non-serious crimes, in determining what type of bond will reasonably assure the defendant's appearance in court, the judge may consider the following factors:



The nature and circumstances of the crime


Any prior criminal history and record of appearances in court


Family and community ties


Employment and financial resources


Character and mental condition


Seriousness of the charge


Weight of the evidence against the defendant


History of violence


Whether the defendant was convicted of the same offense while out on a prior bond; and


Likelihood the defendant will commit another offense while released on bail.


Also, like a Bail Commissioner, a judge may impose one or more non-financial conditions of release.  However, unlike a Bail Commissioner, in imposing non-financial conditions of release, the judge must not only consider only those conditions that will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant in court but also must consider the safety of any other person


The judge may impose one or more of the following non-financial conditions:



Remain under the supervision of a designated person or organization


Comply with specified restrictions on his/her travel, association or place of abode


Not engage in specified activities, including the use or possession of a dangerous weapon, an intoxicant or a controlled substance


Provide sureties of the peace under supervision of a designated bail commissioner


Avoid all contact with an alleged victim of the crime and with a potential witness who may testify concerning the offense


Maintain employment or, if unemployed, actively seek employment


Maintain or commence an educational program


Satisfy any other condition that is reasonably necessary to assure the appearance of the person in court and that the safety of any other person will not be endangered


If the defendant is charged with most felony (serious) crimes, the judge, in deciding the type and amount of bond, must consider the safety of other persons in addition to considering the assurance of the defendant's appearance in court.



The nature and circumstances of the crime


The defendantís record of previous convictions


The defendantís past record of appearance in court after being admitted to bail


The defendantís family ties


The defendantís employment record


The defendantís financial resources, character and mental condition


The defendantís community ties


The number and seriousness of charges pending against the defendant


The weight of the evidence against the defendant


The defendantís history of violence


Whether the defendant has previously been convicted of similar offenses while released on bond; and


The likelihood based upon the expressed intention of the defendant that he will commit another crime while released.


Failure To Appear


If the defendant does not show up for the arraignment hearing or any subsequent scheduled court proceeding, the defendant may be charged with the crime of ďFailure to Appear.Ē  This is an additional crime and a warrant for the suspectís arrest will be issued.  Often, rather than issue a warrant for the defendant, the judge may instruct the bail commissioner to send a warning letter to the defendant.


Schedule the Next Court Date


Once all of the formalities of the arraignment proceeding are completed, as described above, the judge will then continue the case and a date will be set for the defendant to return to court to begin the next stage (Pre-Trial) of the criminal prosecution.

Content Last Modified on 1/11/2007 10:39:17 PM