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Initial Hearing / Arraignment

Either the same day or the day after a defendant is arrested and charged, they are brought before a magistrate judge for an initial hearing on the case. At that time, the defendant learns more about his rights and the charges against him, arrangements are made for him to have an attorney, and the judge decides if the defendant will be held in prison or released until the trial.

In many cases, the law allows the defendant to be released from prison before a trial if they meet the requirements for bail. Before the judge makes the decision on whether to grant bail, they must hold a hearing to learn facts about the defendant including how long the defendant has lived in the area, if they have family nearby, prior criminal record, and if they have threatened any witnesses in the case. The judge also considers the defendant’s potential danger to the community.

If the defendant cannot “post bail” (pay the money), the judge may order the defendant to be remanded into the custody of the U.S. Marshals pending trial.

The defendant will also be asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges.