Legal question: Arraignments

Is it unusual for there to be 3-4 weeks from an arrest, to an arraingment? Why would it be that long, I watch the news, and it seems to me that arraignments normally happen within days after an arrest. The reason i ask is that I know someone who was arrested in early August but isn’t getting arrainged till next Friday an dit’s making me curious. Thanks for the answers in advance.

A quick arraignment is guaranteed by the usual reading of the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of a speedy trial – it being the point at which a person passes from the character of being detained by arrest by the police to being charged with a crime, entitled to post bail, etc.

However, some jurisdictions use the term “arraignment” to describe the court session at which the accused, who may have been arrested and arraigned in the other sense long since, faces the indictment from a grand jury that begins a true felony prosecution.

New York requires that arraignment in the first sense take place (1) as soon as possible, (2) within 72 hours of arrest under any circumstances, and (3) within 24 hours of arrest except in special circumstances (such as a Friday night arrest when the court having jurisdiction will not sit again until Monday morning). But the hearing in which an accused felon faces indictment may be as much as three months later, though it’s not called an arraignment in New York law.

If indeed your friend has been held by the police without facing a judge in any capacity for this long, he (or his family or friends) should consult a lawyer with an eye to getting a habeas corpus hearing for him. But if he’s out on bail or eligible to get out on bail, it’s quite possible that the D.A. and his lawyer may have something going that made it appropriate to delay formal arraignment, for whatever reasons.

In Texas, an arraignment is not the same thing as the initial presentation before the magistrate, unlike the New York arraignment Polycarp describes. In Texas, a presentation before a magistrate must occur “without significant delay”, and SCOTUS requires that a warrantless arrest requires such an appearance within 48 hours to determine if probable cause exists to hold the defendant (County of Riverside v. McLaughlin, 500 U.S. 44 (1991)). At the presentation the magistrate will (1) inform the person of the charges against him; (2) inform the person of his Miranda rights; (2) inform the person of his right to counsel; (4) inform the person of his right to request appointment of counsel if indigent; (5) inform the person of his right to request an examining trial, and; (6) set bail.

An arraignment, on the other hand, comes after the defendant has been formally charged by either the filing of an information by the DA or the grand jury’s indictment, unless waived. This is generally a month or more after the initial arrest. An arraignment is the first formal trial appearance before the court with jursidiction to hear the case on the merits. The purpose of the arraignment is to fix the identity of the defendant, appoint counsel if counsel has not already been appointed, and allow the defendant to enter a plea. Generally, if counsel has already been appointed or retained, the attorney will send over a letter to the court and DA waiving arraignment and enetering a plea of not guilty, which may be changed to guilty later if neccessary.

This is not legal advice, I’m not your lawyer, you’re not my client, although I admit a certain fondness and that’s a nice shirt.