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Arraignment Process in Los Angeles Criminal Courts

Posted by Philip Israels | Oct 17, 2019

After an arrest for criminal case in Los Angeles, your first appearance in court is almost an arraignment. There are several important steps taken at the arraignment that you need to know.

It's the first stage of court proceedings and your first appearance in front of a judge where you will be told of the criminal charges against you and asked to enter a plea. You will be provided a copy of the criminal complaint and police reports.

Next, the crucial issue of bail can be argued before the judge by your criminal defense lawyer. If you don't enter a plea of “no contest” or “guilt,” the judge will schedule a future court date.

If you are facing a misdemeanor crime, the judge will schedule pretrial date. If charged with a felony crime, it can be set for a preliminary hearing, or sent to an early disposition court, where there is an attempt to resolve the case.

If it's a felony case, there are two different arraignments that could occur. The first would occur after charges were filed, and the second after the preliminary hearing if you are “held to answer” for criminal charges.

After you are arrested, you can't be held in custody longer than 48 hours without going to court, not including weekends or holidays. After an arrest, you could be released by police and given a future court date, or you could post bail and be released.

If a bond is posted, you will be provided a with a future court date to appear. If it's a felony case, you have to personally appear in court for the arraignment. If a misdemeanor case, you could have a lawyer appear on their behalf as described under California Penal Code 977(a). .

In order to give readers useful information about the importance of the arraignment process in Los Angeles criminal cases, our criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Importance of a Criminal Case Arraignment

The importance of the arraignment process can't be overstated, but you should address specific legal questions with your criminal defense lawyer who is always more familiar with the details of your criminal case.

The primary purpose of a criminal case arraignment in Los Angeles criminal Courts is for you to enter an initial plea to the charges against you. Before this happens, the court is required to advise you of the criminal charges you are facing and legal rights, including constitutional rights and statutory rights, such as armed services and veteran's rights.

Typically, especially if you are represented by an attorney, you will waive the formal reading of these items in order to expedite the process because your lawyer has already given you all this information before arraignment.

What are the Plea Options at Arraignment?

You will have three options at the arraignment for the initial plea: Not Guilty, Guilty, or Demur. In most cases, you will enter a Not Guilty plea. As stated above, if you enter a Not Guilty plea in a misdemeanor case, the court will set the matter for a pretrial hearing or early disposition conference. In a felony case, the court will schedule a preliminary hearing.

Not Guilty Plea

By entering a Not Guilty plea at arraignment, it's often a prerequisite to receive additional discovery that is beyond the initial police reports given by the prosecution at the arraignment. It should be noted that most prosecutors won't process a discovery requests until after the arraignment.

Guilty Plea 

You also have the option of pleading Guilty to the charges at arraignment. This can be an advantage when the prosecutor has offered an “arraignment-only” plea deal. This means the deal you are offered is so favorable, you want to take advantage of it now and not go through the process of obtaining additional discovery or litigate the case in court.

Frequently, when these type of favorable offers are made at the arraignment, defendant's will ask the court to continue the arraignment date in order to consider the offer with their criminal defense lawyer. In most cases, Los Angeles criminal courts will grant these type request, but the judge has discretion not to allow an arraignment continuance.


The final option is to Demur to the charging document. A Demurrer  must be made in writing and it's your legal statement that, even taking the allegations in the complaint as true, you can't properly be convicted of the charges filed by the prosecutor. A Demurrer is typically based on jurisdictional or constitutional issues with the charging document, or it could be based on deficiencies in the charging document itself.

For example, your alleged criminal conduct might have occurred in a different county or state, meaning the prosecuting agency doesn't have the legal authority to hold you to answer for the alleged conduct.

Addressing Bail Issues at Arraignment

Your arraignment is usually the first time which bail will be addressed by the court. The prosecutor or your criminal defense lawyer can make a request to change your bail status – whether to increase or decrease in cash bail –  or request a release on own recognizance, most commonly known as an “O.R. release.”

At arraignment, the prosecutor can make a request that bail or conditions of O.R. be set, even if you already posted bond. They could also decide to file additional charges and might later request a higher bail that was previously posted.

1275 Hold 

In some cases, a prosecutor might decide to request a hold pursuant to California Penal Code 1275.1 - known as a “1275 hold.” If there is probable cause showing that the bail money posted was obtained from your criminal conduct, you will not be permitted to use this money for bail.

This means any money that was posted for bail will need to be evaluated at a hearing to determine whether the funds came from legitimate sources.

A 1275 hold is commonly used by a prosecutor when you are charged with white collar crimes like crimes grand theft, embezzlement, extortion. They are also used in drug crime charges, such as drug trafficking, drug sales or transportation.

The judge could either rule on the bail issue at the arraignment, or schedule a bail review hearing at shortly the arraignment in the situation where you are already in custody.

Contact Us To Review Your Case

The arraignment is the start of the criminal court process and frequently an important hearing. It's where you might be able to take advantage of favorable “arraignment-only” plea offers – especially in a misdemeanor case.

If you are scheduled for an arraignment hearing, consult with our defense lawyers who have decades of experience and know how to help you navigate the process in all criminal courts.

We serve clients throughout Southern California including the greater Los Angeles area and the San Fernando Valley. We need to review the details of your case to develop an effective strategy. Contact us for a free case evaluation.

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About the Author

Philip Israels

Phil Israels was raised in California's Central Valley where he still has family. After graduating from the University of California at Berkeley where he was a member for Zeta Beta Tau fraternity and studied Economics, he continued his education...

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