Understanding the Arraignment Process in Texas [2023]

What is an Arraignment in Texas?

An arraignment in Texas can mean two different things.

First, a person is arraigned at the inception of the case against them. This is when the judge reads and describes the nature of the charge aloud to the defendant. If a bond hasn’t been set, the judge will address the bond at this point in the arraignment process in Texas.

Second, another arraignment occurs after the case is filed. This is a critical stage in the Texas criminal justice system. The defendant is formally charged with an offense and enters a plea. During this arraignment, the judge reads the charges against the defendant, who then enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

In some jurisdictions, this occurs at a preliminary setting. In other jurisdictions, a defendant is arraigned when the case is set for trial.

This article will distinguish the two arraignments as the preliminary arraignment and the formal arraignment.

what happens at an arraignment

How does the Arraignment Process work in Texas?

Timeframe: The preliminary arraignment process in Texas typically occurs within 48 to 72 hours after an arrest. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 26.01 states that the defendant must be arraigned in court without unnecessary delay.

Legal representation: At the preliminary arraignment, when the defendant is advised of his charge, attorneys for either side are not present.

At the formal arraignment, the defendant has the right to an attorney. The court appoints a public defender if the defendant cannot afford an attorney.

Plea options: The defendant will be asked to enter a plea during the arraignment. The options are:

      • Guilty – Defendant admits guilt, and the case proceeds to the sentencing phase.

      • Not Guilty – Defendant denies guilt, and the case proceeds to pretrial hearings and possibly a trial.
        • No contest (Nolo contendere) – Defendant neither admits nor disputes the charges, and the case proceeds to sentencing. Not all courts accept a plea of no contest. It is sometimes used to avoid the civil collateral consequences of a guilty plea in the criminal context.

    What happens at a federal arraignment?

    A federal arraignment is a crucial step in the criminal justice process in the United States when an individual is facing federal charges. It is a formal court hearing where the defendant appears before a judge to be informed of the charges against them and to enter a plea.

    Here’s what typically happens at a federal arraignment:

    1. Court Appearance: The defendant, along with their attorney, appears before a federal judge in a designated courtroom.

    2. Reading of Charges: The judge reads the charges filed by the federal prosecutor against the defendant. This is called “reading the indictment” or “reading the information.” The indictment or information is a formal document that outlines the specific criminal charges and allegations against the defendant. The formal reading can be waived.

    3. Rights Explanation: The judge ensures that the defendant understands their rights, such as the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a fair trial. 

    4. Entering a Plea: The defendant is asked to enter a plea to the charges. They can choose to plead in one of the following ways:

      a. Guilty: If the defendant pleads guilty, they are admitting to the charges and accepting responsibility for the alleged criminal conduct.

      b. Not Guilty: If the defendant pleads not guilty, they are asserting that they did not commit the crimes they are accused of and are contesting the charges.

      c. Nolo Contendere (No Contest): In some cases, a defendant may choose to plead “no contest.” This means they are not admitting guilt but are not contesting the charges either. It has a similar effect to a guilty plea but may have different legal consequences in certain situations. Not all courts will accept a plea of no content.

    5. Setting Bail: The judge will consider or revisit the issue of pre-trial detention, or release from custody while awaiting trial. The judge will consider factors such as the seriousness of the charges, the defendant’s criminal history, and the risk of flight when determining whether to grant bail and at what amount.

    6. Scheduling Further Proceedings: After the plea is entered, the judge may schedule additional court hearings, such as a pre-trial conference, motions hearings, and trial dates.

    What are the Bail and Bond Conditions at Preliminary Arraignments in Texas?

    During the preliminary arraignment, Texas judges determine if the defendant should be released on bail or remain in custody until trial. The judges consider factors such as the defendant’s criminal history, flight risk, and the nature of the alleged offense.

    If the judge sets bail, the defendant may be released upon payment of a bond, a financial guarantee that the defendant will return to court for future proceedings. Bail conditions may also be imposed, such as a no-contact order or substance-abuse treatment requirements.

    How should you prepare for your formal arraignment in Texas?

    For the best outcome in your case, you should follow these steps ahead of your formal arraignment:

    Hire an experienced criminal defense attorney: Retain an attorney who specializes in criminal defense and is familiar with the local courts and Texas laws.

    Gather documentation: Obtain copies of police reports, witness statements, and any other evidence that may support your defense. Provide those to your attorney.

    Review your options: Discuss your plea options and potential defense strategies with your attorney. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this process alone. The defense team at Varghese Summersett will guide you through the arraignment process in Texas, help gather the documents, and have you fully prepared for each step. Call us today at 817-203-2220 or contact us online.

    Are you or a family member facing an arraignment hearing? Call us.

    Don’t face the arraignment process alone. Call Varghese Summersett today for expert legal representation. Our team has unmatched results over four decades of defending clients in North Texas. We can help you throughout the arraignment process in Texas.

    For a complimentary consultation, call us at 817-203-2220 or contact us online.

    If you fail to appear at your arraignment, the judge may issue an arrest warrant, and you could face additional charges for failure to appear in court.

    Yes, you can change your plea after the arraignment, but you must request permission from the court. The judge will consider factors such as the stage of the case, the reason for the change, and potential prejudice to the prosecution before granting or denying the request.

    If you do not understand the charges at the preliminary arraignment, inform the judge and ask for clarification. If it is a formal arraignment, consult with your attorney.

    In some circumstances, the arraignment can be waived with the consent of the court. Your attorney can file a written waiver on your behalf, which generally will include your plea of not guilty and any requests for discovery.

    Yes, you can request a jury trial during the formal arraignment. In Texas, the right to a jury trial is guaranteed for all criminal cases.

    Following the arraignment, the case proceeds to pretrial hearings, where your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor, file motions, and address any legal issues. If the case is not resolved through a plea agreement or dismissal, it proceeds to trial.

    In some cases, the judge may release a defendant on their own recognizance, which means the defendant is released without posting bail, based on a promise to appear in court for future proceedings.

    Factors considered include the defendant’s ties to the community, employment, criminal history, and the nature of the alleged offense.

    Accordion Content

    Texas does not formally recognize conditional pleas, where a defendant pleads guilty while preserving the right to appeal specific legal issues.

    However, your attorney can work with the prosecutor to structure a plea agreement that addresses your concerns and provides for a potential appeal.

    Dress professionally and conservatively for your arraignment. Appropriate attire includes a suit, dress shirt, slacks, or a dress. Avoid wearing casual clothing, including jeans, t-shirts, or sneakers.

    Yes, the prosecution can amend the charges against you after the arraignment if they discover new evidence or determine that different charges are more appropriate. Your attorney will have the opportunity to review any changes and advise you on how to proceed.

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    About the Author Board Certified Lawyer Benson Varghese

    About the Author

    Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has successfully handled thousands of state and federal cases, ranging from misdemeanor driving while intoxicated cases to capital offenses, showcasing his commitment to preserving justice and upholding the rights of his clients. His firm covers criminal defense, personal injury, and family law matters. Benson is also a legal tech entrepreneur. Benson is a go-to authority in the legal community, known for his ability to explain complex legal concepts with clarity and precision. His writings offer a wealth of in-depth legal insights, reflecting his extensive experience and his passion for the law. Not only is Benson an accomplished litigator, but he is also a dedicated advocate for his clients, consistently striving to achieve the best possible outcomes for them. His authorship provides readers with valuable legal advice and an understanding of the complexities of the criminal justice system. CriminalPersonal InjuryFamily Law Contact
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