Have you been charged with a crime? Get ready for your preliminary arraignment.

If you have just discovered that you have been charged with a crime and find yourself under the weight of the criminal justice system, you may be in panic mode. What do you do? Where do you turn? You should immediately seek legal counsel as decisions and statements you make now may determine the ultimate outcome of your case. The first step after you have been charged will be your required appearance for your preliminary arraignment.

You may be asking yourself, what is a preliminary arraignment and what should you expect?  

The preliminary arraignment is the proceeding where a judge advises the defendant of certain rights, provides a criminal defendant with a copy of the criminal complaint, and sets bail.

At the time of the hearing, the court will advise you of your right to hire the attorney of your choice, your right to have a preliminary hearing, and what type of bail you will be subjected to. Bail is the security given to guarantee a criminal defendant’s appearance when legally required to do so.

Except in very few cases, a criminal defendant has a right to have bail set in his/her case. While the magisterial district judge has wide latitude in setting bail, the court is required to consider several factors. In determining what type of bail is appropriate, the court will consider:

  1. The nature of the offense charged and any mitigating or aggravating factors that may bear upon the likelihood of conviction and possible penalty;
  2. The defendant’s employment status and history, and financial condition;
  3. The nature of the defendant’s family relationships;
  4. The length and nature of the defendant’s residence in the community, and any past residences;
  5. The defendant’s age, character, reputation, mental condition, and whether addicted to alcohol or drugs;
  6. If the defendant has previously been released on bail, whether he or she appeared as required and complied with the conditions of the bail bond;
  7. Whether the defendant has any record of flight to avoid arrest or prosecution, or of escape or attempted escape;
  8. The defendant’s prior criminal record;
  9. Any use of false identification; and
  10. Any other factors relevant to whether the defendant will appear as required and comply with the conditions of bail.

The court cannot adversely consider the decision of the defendant not to admit culpability or not to assist in the criminal investigation when setting bail. After considering the appropriate factors, the court will release you on bail under five (5) ways:

  1. Released on Recognizance (ROR): release is conditioned only upon your written agreement to appear when required and to comply with any additional conditions of bail;
  2. Release on Nonmonetary Conditions: release is conditioned upon your agreement to comply with any nonmonetary conditions imposed by the judge;
  3. Release on Unsecured Bail Bond: release is conditioned upon your written agreement to be liable for a fixed sum of money if you fail to appear as required or fail to comply with the any additional conditions of bail;
  4. Release on Nominal Bail: Release conditioned upon your depositing a nominal amount of cash which the bail authority determines is sufficient security for the your release, such as $1.00, and the agreement of a designated person, organization, or bail agency to act as surety for you.
  5. Release on a Monetary Condition: Release conditioned upon the your compliance with a monetary condition imposed pursuant to Rule 528. The amount of the monetary condition shall not be greater than is necessary to reasonably ensure the your appearance and compliance with the conditions of the bail bond.

In addition to setting bail, the magisterial district judge will also provide the you and your attorney with a copy of the criminal complaint filed against you. The criminal complaint is the document laying out the formal allegations made against the defendant.

At the conclusion of your preliminary arraignment, the judge will provide notice of the next court proceeding, the preliminary hearing …  

DISCLAIMER – The information contained in this article is for general guidance on the subject matter only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, and the inherent hazards of electronic communication, there may be delays, omissions or inaccuracies in information in this article. Case summaries are primarily excerpted directly from the decisions authored by the courts. The decisions are cited and linked and the reader is encouraged to read the entire decision. Accordingly, the information in this article is provided with the understanding that the authors and publishers are not herein engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and services. As such, it should NOT be used as a substitute for consultation with a Lancaster Law Group attorney about this or any other legal issue. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should always consult with a Lancaster Law Group attorney.