Arraignment Process in California Criminal Courts

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After a person is arrested or charged with an offense, they must be arraigned. The arraignment process occurs in all misdemeanor and felony cases. As part of the arraignment process, bail may be set if the person is incarcerated. If bail is set, then you can contact a bail bonds company to arrange for payment of the bail so you can be replaced.

What is an arraignment?

If you have not been through an arraignment hearing before, you are probably wondering what is an arraignment? The arraignment is a court hearing where you are advised about the charges you are facing, the potential penalties that could be imposed, and your basic rights. If you are incarcerated at the time of the arraignment court hearing, then the court may consider setting a bail amount.

Misdemeanor arraignment

A misdemeanor arraignment hearing will typically be the first court appearance for your case. At the misdemeanor arraignment hearing, you will be able to enter a plea to the charge. The court will then inform you of your upcoming court dates.

Felony arraignment

If you are facing felony charges, then you may have preliminary hearings before the felony arraignment. Because the penalties in a California criminal case involving a felony offense, the arraignment hearing will be more complex than a misdemeanor arraignment.

What are some of your rights in a California criminal case?

If you are charged with a crime in the state of California, then you have certain rights that are protected by law and guaranteed by the Constitution.

These rights include:

  • The right to have legal representation, even if you cannot afford an attorney
  • The right to have a trial by a jury of your peers
  • The right to a speedy trial
  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to confront and cross-examine witnesses
  • The right to be released on bail
  • The right to receive and review the evidence lodged against you
  • The right to be advised of the charges you are facing and the potential penalties


If your rights are denied or otherwise violated, then there could be remedies available.


How is bail determined?

If you are arrested for a misdemeanor or felony, then the court will consider releasing you on bail or without bail (i.e., on your own recognizance). Bail is a cash amount that must be paid in order to have you released from jail while the case is pending. Bail payment can be arranged with a bail bonds company.

A court will consider many factors when determining bail, including:

  • The specific charges
  • The facts alleged in the case
  • Your criminal record
  • Your ties to the community
  • Whether you are considered a flight risk
  • Whether you pose any danger to society
  • Any other relevant fact


In some situations, bail will not be required and you will be released immediately. This is known as a release on your own recognizance. The court may include certain restrictions or other requirements with your bail, which must be followed in order to avoid being taken back into custody.

What should you do if charged with a felony or misdemeanor?

If you receive misdemeanor or felony charges, then you could face significant penalties. Because of this, you should seek out a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can provide assistance in a variety of ways, including:

  • Legal advice
  • Representation during the investigation of the case
  • Representation in court
  • Argument to set bail, reduce the bail amount or release on your own recognizance
  • Evidence gathering through discovery requests, subpoenas and other legal tools
  • Advocacy on your behalf