What Is An Arraignment?

August 22, 2018

In New Hampshire, any person charged with a criminal offense will receive either a summons to appear in court, be released on bail pending his or her court appearance, or be detained pending his or her first court appearance.  A person released on bail will typically receive a "Bond in Criminal Case" form from a bail commissioner, which lists the offenses charged, the court where the charges are being filed, and the date of the arraignment.   

Arraignment - An arraignment is an intial court appearance by a person who is charged with a crime (the defendant).  At a formal arraignment, the defendant must be provided a copy of the Complaint or Complaints (a written statement of the essential facts supporting the offense or offenses charged) and may typically enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty.  In many cases, particularly offenses that are punishable by jail or a loss of license, it is advisable for a defendant to plead not guilty at the arraignment so that he or she may consult with a lawyer and examine the different legal options.  If the defendant is detained (held in jail in lieu of bail or without bail) pending arraignment, his or her arraignment must be scheduled within 24 hours (excluding weekends and holidays).  If the defendant is not detained prior to arraignment, his or her arraignment is usually scheduled soon thereafter.  

Waiving the Arraignment - A defendant charged with a class A misdemeanor or a felony may waive arraignment only if he or she is represented by a lawyer and that lawyer files a "waiver of arraignment and entry of not guilty" form with the court prior to the date of arraignment.  If the waiver of arraignment form is timely filed and approved by the judge, the defendant will often not need to appear in court on the date of the arraignment.

Summons - A person who fails to appear in response to a summons may be charged with a misdemeanor.  However, as with misdemeanor and felony charges, a person who receives a summons for a misdemeanor or violation level offense may, through their lawyer, waive formal arraignment in advance.  

If you have other questions about bail, felony or misdmeanor arraignments, or representation in a Circuit Court or Superior Court matter, please give us a call.  We have experience with handling all types of matters in New Hampshire courts. 

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