An arraignment is the first step in a criminal proceeding. If the District Attorney has filed charges, this is the first appearance a defendant has to make in front of the Court. It is the time the accused is told of the charges filed against him. A defendant will be asked to enter a plea at that point. By answering “not guilty,” you are denying each and every charge, placing the burden on the government to prove each and every charge against you beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Court will also set bail that must be posted or you will face being taken into custody and held in jail until your case is completed. Keep in mind – once bail has been set by the Court, you must show a “change in circumstances” to get your bail reduced. I have seen bail amounts not challenged at the time of the arraignment many times. If an attorney is hired later, they have an uphill battle to try to persuade the judge to lower the bail that has already been set. The best chance for a reduction in bail or a release without any bail is to address it at the very first court appearance.
All of these things, from deciding to enter a “not guilty” plea or not to seeking a reduction in bail or a release on your own recognizance (an “O.R.” release) should be discussed with a criminal defense attorney to be sure your rights are protected.