Your first court date after your arrest is called your arraignment. This is a very significant court date for a domestic violence case. Several critical things will happen at the arraignment.
What Happens at the Arraignment?
In domestic violence cases, your arraignment will be the day after your arrest regardless of whether you remain locked up in police custody or you have been released from police custody on bail.
When you get to court, you must meet with the court’s Family Relations Counselor. This person will interview you about your background, your relationship with the victim(s), and the situation that led to your arrest. The Family Relations Counselor has a separate office within each courthouse. After you meet, the Family Relations Counselor will submit a written report to the judge with recommendations. The judge will use this report in determining the appropriate release conditions for you.
At your arraignment, you will appear in court before the judge. You will be formally informed of the criminal charge(s) brought against you. You will also be informed of your constitutional rights, including your right to be represented by an attorney, and your right to remain silent. You may also be asked to enter a plea to the charges, although the judge does not typically require this on your first court date.
If you are still being held in police custody, the judge will review the amount of bail set by the police, and the judge can set a new amount of bail bond so that you gain your release. Also, the judge will review your arrest reports to ensure that the police had probable cause to arrest you.
Criminal Protective Orders
In domestic violence cases, the judge will enter a criminal protective order. This order will restrict your ability to have contact with the people that the police claim are victims. By law, criminal protective orders must be put in place on the defendant’s first court date. You will be given a written copy of the criminal protective order. It will list all of the protected parties, and it will specify the conditions imposed by the judge.
Criminal protective orders restrict your liberties in several ways besides prohibiting you from contacting the victims. For example, if you are a gun owner, you will need to surrender your guns to the police. In addition, if you lived with the victims, you will need to leave your home, and will need to live somewhere else while the protective order remains in effect. You are permitted to return to your home one time with a pre-arranged police escort to get your possessions. This can be both costly and inconvenient for everyone involved.
If you think that there is no valid reason for a criminal protective order, you need to make this challenge immediately, or else you have waived your right. Under our law, you cannot make this argument later on in your case; it must be made during your first court date.
In domestic violence cases, the judge will also set a number of release conditions on you. These conditions will be monitored by the court’s Family Relations Counselor. We have found that in domestic violence cases, typical release conditions include group and individual counseling and education, individualized substance abuse treatment and testing, criminal protective orders, and G.P.S. monitoring. On your next court date, the judge will have a written report from the Family Relations Counselor concerning your progress. If you fail to obey your release conditions, the judge will raise your bond and lock you up. You could also be charged with additional crimes depending upon the condition that you violate.
One way to protect your rights during your arraignment is by having legal representation there with you. A lawyer can walk you through the arraignment process, answer your questions, and make sure that you are not taken advantage of.