On November 11 2016, I attended different arraignment hearing sessions at Suffolk County Court House that is situated in Central Islip, New York. In all the sessions that I witnessed in the courtroom, I learned more about how judges tackled different cases that they were presented with at different points in their career lives. Witnessing the techniques used by the judges was quite informative in helping me understand more about the issue of arraignment and how it was handled within courts in New York. Most cases that were presented in court were of diverse kinds ranging from the ones that involved individuals committing severe atrocities such as brutal assault to less severe cases such as that which involved excessive drinking. Discussions in the following paragraphs would exemplify on the things that I was able to learn during the time I spent in the court sessions.
An arraignment could be defined as the very first part of a criminal proceeding that usually takes place in a courtroom before a judge or magistrate. The primary purpose of an arraignment is always to inform accused persons of the crime they would have been charged with by the plaintiffs (Statsky 78). The arraignment practice that is guided by the sixth amendment to the United States Constitution is usually undertaken so that accused persons could not be held behind bars for a prolonged duration without being informed of the main reason why they were in custody or the offenses they had been accused of to warrant their arrest and detention. The arraignment procedure helps a great deal in protecting individuals from authorities who might hold them in prison for an extended period without informing them on the reason why they had been arrested in the first place. It is due to the significant role that arraignment plays in the society that the process is usually conducted within a predetermined after individuals were arrested. Arraignment usually takes place with 72 hours after an individuals apprehension. If accused persons were not arraigned in court after their arrest, people could argue that their constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated.
The United States constitutions require accused persons always to be informed of the nature of the charges that were laid against them by the court system. According to the constitution, all persons deserved a chance to be listened to in court or plea to the judges to hear their side of the story (Statsky 78). This is because there were times that innocent people were accused of crimes they did not commit making them end up behind bars for offenses that were perpetrated by other people within their surroundings. The idea about informing individuals of the crimes they had been accused of in the shortest period possible after their arrest was first derived from the Early English common laws. The principles behind individuals arraignment in court were initiated with the adoption of the United States Constitution. Presently, the principles of arraignment have been taken up as conventional procedures in handling criminal cases within the court systems.
Accused persons started enjoying their right to be informed of the charges they had been accused of as early as the 12th century in England (Statsky 79). The laws in the past years required that individuals presented accusations that were adequately substantiated in court to make their case. As part of the rules of the court systems that subsisted in the past years, judges were required to determine the viable state of an accusation presented in court before they called upon accused persons to answer to the crime for which they were charged. As such, if a particular offense did not call for individuals arraignment in court then the cases that involved the less substantiated offense were dropped by the court. The practice of questioning individuals in court before specifying the nature of the accusation that was raised against individuals was revived to incorporate the idea of informing people of the crimes they had been accused of at different points in their lives. In situations whereby accused people were not apprised of the crimes for which they had been charged with, persons refrained from answering some of the questions they were asked in court having developed the fear that they might incriminate themselves through the things they said in court.
While an arraignment could be used in describing a hearing in which accused people enter a plea for the crimes they were accused of, an indictment could be explained as formal notification that individuals are always presented with showing them the crimes they were charged with at different points in their lives (Statsky 80). Nevertheless, an indictment is usually a written form of accusation that specifies the particular crimes individuals committed. An indictment that is issued by the jury is always an indication of the start of the prosecution process for accused persons. It is only after receiving an indictment that accused persons would be required to attend their arraignment sessions so that they could be informed of the formal charges that were raised against them after which individuals would be required to enter a plea. Both processes of indictment and arraignment play a very crucial role in enabling accused persons to remain informed of the crimes for which they were charged thus allowing them to prepare some of the strategies they could put to play in defending themselves in court.
The movement of prisoners to the courthouses and from the courthouses to the institutions they had been detained on a daily basis has been discovered as increasingly expensive and time-consuming (Statsky 82). The movement of prisoners to the courthouses and back to their prison cells has also been identified as one of the leading causes of insecurity. This is because, on some occasions, prisoners escaped from custody in the process of their transportation to the courthouses or from the courthouses back to their prison cells. Nevertheless, to avert the risks and costs involved in moving prisons from one place to another all in the name of being arraigned in court, the majority of judicial systems developed video arraignment systems for defendants while still in custody. Video arraignments are usually carried out over a more secure internet connection. The accused persons were allowed to use video conferencing technology to communicate with the judges during their processes of arraignment from inside their detention facilities. Video conferencing technology allows both the judges and the defendants they interacted with to hear, see and speak to one another from the start of the arraignment sessions to the end of the arraignment sessions.
Accused persons are always required to attend their arraignment sessions while accompanied by their attorneys (Association 23). However, for those who may fail to acquire an attorney they were provided with a defense attorney who was to guide them through the entire process of arraignment or help the accused persons with their case. Defendants come face to face with the prosecuting attorneys who were to tackle their case during an arraignment hearing. As part of the arraignment procedure, accused persons are usually informed of their constitutional rights. This would include the truth that individuals had the right to have an attorney who was to assist them by guiding persons through the steps they were required to follow in making sure that they progressed towards a point of freedom regardless of the crime individuals might have been accused of in their societies. People were assigned an attorney whether or not they were in a position of affording an attorney to represent them throughout their case proceedings.
Other than informing accused persons of the charges laid against them, court judges also provided defendants with adequate concerning every charge (Association 25). After individuals are notified of the charges brought against them, they were then presented with a copy of the things they were accused of so that defendants could use the information they were presented with in preparing their defense. In any case, defendants attended their arraignment sessions without having an attorney by their side, to always guide them through the events of the arraignment, such persons were usually discouraged from entering a plea of guilty. This was due to the lack of the presence of a more informed personality to guide them through the things they were required to do to help them handle their case proficiently.
In situations whereby defendants were still in custody even at the time of their arraignment, their attorneys may request the court to set bail concerning the amount that would be required for the release of these persons so that they could attend the arraignment session. Nevertheless, the bail amount that individuals were required to pay before they were released depended on the type of crime for which individuals had been accused, and whether individuals had strong ties with other people within the communities including their families and friends. Similarly, the amount of bail that people were required to pay up before their release also depended on whether individuals had steady jobs or not. In cases whereby judges felt like accused persons were bound to flee their places of residents to far distance localities after their release, the court set a higher bail amount for such groups of people.
One of the defense attorneys in the courtroom, Stephanie, was quite amazing in the way that she carried out her activities in the courtroom. Attorney Stephanies actions were a clear indication to the truth that she was not only good at her job but that she had the best interests of her clients at heart throughout the court session. Fortunately, I was able to witness how state defense attorneys tackled different cases and at the same time witness how outside attorneys handled the cases they were presented with in court. I learnt that in as much as all lawyers strived to fight for the interests of their clients they always did their best to uphold the law. Attending the court sessions provided me with a clear picture of what arraignment entailed and the events that took place during an arraignment session as outlined in the discussions above.
Association, New Y. C. L. New York City Criminal Courts Manual. Place of publication not identified: Lulu Com, 2011. Print.
Statsky, William P. The New York Paralegal. Clifton Park, N.Y: Delmar Learning, 2010. Print.
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