The Federal Arraignment: Setting the Tone in the Highest of Courts

When the word arraignment is discussed in the criminal law community, most feel that this is when the defendant pleads guilty or not guilty. While the previous statement is accurate in state District Courts, the concept becomes more complicated at the federal level. To learn more about this topic, this article will provide detailed information about the subject matter and discuss the issue with three of the top criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan.

The definition of the arraignment is a formal hearing in opened court where the defendant hears from the Magistrate of the charges being levied against him or her. This is the first official step in the process of charges being brought against the defendant. The defendant will then have a right to plead guilty or not guilty, argue for a bond, and obtain future court dates. The in-state court, the next step would be the probable cause conference. A federal court can present different obstacles.

Arraignment on the Indictment

This is the next hearing which is generally held two weeks after the initial arraignment. A grand jury may indict the defendant within two weeks of their first appearance, but this time frame is often waived. The waiver of time can be stipulated to by the prosecutor and is often a method of strategy for the defense to utilize. An issue that is often overlooked by defense counsel is that the district court judge has the power to overrule the decision of the Federal Magistrate, which can lead to a revocation of bond. The United States attorney may also pursue a plea agreement and draft such a deal at the arraignment on the indictment. If the defendant accepts this, a guilty plea hearing will be scheduled within a few days of this decision being reached.

Criminal Defense Lawyer Point of View

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates and has built a firm that is known as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked about the arraignment process in federal court, Grabel stated, “The difference in the arraignment process between state and federal courts is significant. Things tend to move faster in federal court. The lawyer needs to have prepared for this hearing. If the attorney is not on their of their game, there is a great chance that the defendant will end up in jail during the proceedings despite the strength of their case. Lack of preparation is not tolerated in federal court, and when the lawyer ready to argue the defendant suffer the consequences.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the most aggressive and successful criminal lawyers in the state of Michigan. When asked about the federal arraignment, Amadeo stated, “This subject is all about preparation and knowing your surroundings. For example, in states court, when you waive the reading the indictment in state court, it is generally appreciated. In federal court, you need to be careful how you approach that issue. There is a huge difference between saying, “The defendant waives a reading” as opposed to saying “If acceptable to our court, the defendant would waive a reading of the matter.” With one particular Magistrate in Detroit, if you do not phrase the request properly, your client would pay the penalty with a significant bond. It sounds crazy, but if you don’t know your audience, you will not be successful even at this early stage.”

Ravi Gurumurthy is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the northern part of Michigan. When asked about the federal arraignment, Gurumurthy was quoted as saying, “Many lawyers think that the arraignment is a quick process. In federal court, this is not always the case. I have seen federal judges ask questions of defense counsel about the case at the arraignment level. If the lawyer does not know about defense at the first hearing, a stern federal magistrate will not tolerate the lack of preparation. Federal court is a different animal, and the lawyer needs to have the experience to protect their client.”

Scott Grabel added, “Federal court is a different procedure. To not have a defense that one can support their client from day one can lead to compromising the freedom of their client. You cannot prepare enough when defending one charged with a federal offense.”

While the arraignment can set the tone for the freedom of your client, it is never a good idea to show up and argue bond factors. There needs to be a connection between the lawyer and the defendant that the court can see. Without such a relationship, the defendant will face an uphill battle.

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