Can You Go To Jail At An Arraignment?

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

Being in the hands of the criminal justice system can be a scary and often confusing scenario. Many defendants hear words like ‘criminal arraignment’ for the first time. They are sped through a legal process without fully understanding the implications of what is being said. A lack of vital knowledge can totally alter the outcome of a procedure. Therefore, should someone you know fall onto the wrong side of the tracks, it is important you equip yourself with all the information to ensure the best possible result.

Learn the must-know facts about a criminal arraignment. Read this article to understand all the crucial details, and if you can go to jail for an arraignment. Make sure you scroll down to our final thoughts’ section for an added knowledge boost.

What Is An Arraignment?

An arraignment is just a fancy legal word for a formal hearing. Think of it as the second step in the legal process. Once a person has been arrested, he must appear in court. There, a prosecuting attorney reads the charges held against him. The judge then decides on release conditions, which usually include paying bail.

Can You Go To Jail At An Arraignment?

In order to answer whether a person can go to jail at an arraignment, we must first become familiar with the general course of action taken when an arraignment is called. Next, we look at what happens, and consider the process of an arraignment for misdemeanors and felonies.

What Happens At An Arraignment?

Although defendants can be in trouble for citations, misdemeanors, or felonies, the fundamental process of arraignment is the same. The process is:

  • Arrested and booked
  • Arraignment – the defendant goes through the steps of an arraignment. A formal hearing is held, in which the judge (or prosecuting attorney) reads out all charges held against the defendant.
  • Rights and attorney/lawyer – the defendant is read his rights, and asked if he understands. Next, the accused is asked whether he has an attorney. If he doesn’t, the court will then appoint one on his behalf. The judge ensures that the accused knows what rights he has.
  • Plea request – the judge then asks the defendant to enter his plea of ‘guilty,’ ‘not guilty,’ or ‘no contest.’ No contest means that although the accused is not admitting guilt he is prepared to accept a conviction.
  • Bail – next, the judge decides on bail conditions. The accused may be allowed to go without paying bail (until the trial). Alternatively, he may be asked to post bail monies. In some cases, the defendant must remain in jail until bail payment is made.
  • Trial dates – Once bail conditions and decisions have been made and read out, court dates are set. These will include a preliminary hearing, pre-trial motions, then finally the trial.

How Soon Does An Arraignment Happen After The Initial Arrest?

An arraignment will frequently happen very soon following the arrest and completion of the booking procedure, and will include a bail hearing.

For those who are issued with a summons and therefore not arrested, the arraignment will be their first court appearance.

For more serious crimes such as serious felonies, the arraignment may be put off until the grand jury respond with an indictment.

Where Are Arraignments Held?

Arraignments are typically held in a courtroom. That said, they can also be held via video conferencing.

Arraignment Variations According To State

Some states insist on a counsel being present at the hearing. In other states, arguments can be made regarding the bail decision. Sometimes the defendant must return to jail until the trial.

Can you go to jail at an arraignment? When might an arraignment result end in jail time?
The outcome and the severity of punishment all depends on the crime that has been committed. The more serious the offense, the more chances are of being refused bail. That said, there are 3 key reasons why you would be taken back to custody at an arraignment:

  • Ordering bail – should the judge order bail, the accused will be taken back to custody until if and when the bail amount is paid.
  • Processing – processing refers to a defendant having their identification verified. This includes the defendant’s photo and fingerprints taken, and all required information logged into the police database. This is only necessary for felony offenses. Processing an individual takes approximately 3-4 hours. Once this is done, usually the accused can leave until their trial date.
  • Misconduct – should you violate your bail conditions or where there is further alleged misconduct, you will likely find yourself being sent straight back to the slammer.

Arraignment Differences According To Crime

Capital crime offenders who have committed a serious crime do not (in most circumstances) get the privilege of release, either after their arrest or before their trial.

Federal and state laws can differ on whether the judge can retain the power to refuse bail

Is Appointing An Attorney Necessary To Ensure Freedom?

Not at all. The less serious offenses often do not necessitate a lawyer to ensure you stay out of jail until the trial. Should a serious crime be committed, it is highly important to appoint an attorney. In such instances, it can make the difference between a ‘long stretch’ and a reduced sentence, as well as less severe penalties and bail conditions being set.


On the whole, arraignment does not end in jail time for nonviolent misdemeanors and lesser offenses, However, the defendant must agree to pay the bail conditions set by the judge. A judge may allow release without requesting bail (this is known as ‘OR.’).

Bail can be set where necessary at felony arraignments. The more serious the crime, the higher the bail is set. Typically, a defendant must return to custody until bail has been paid. Much is dependent on specific factors. These include the offender being a high risk to society or where the crime is of a particularly violent nature.

Overall, an arraignment doesn’t usually end in returning to custody. Bail for felonies is often set, and the defendant can be released upon payment of this, until the trial date. Misdemeanor charges do not require a defendant to appear in court as long as their attorney is there to represent them.

That said, there is one way a defendant of a misdemeanor or felony crime can go to jail at an arraignment. Should you not show up for your arraignment (felony) or have your lawyer attend (for a misdemeanor crime), a bench warrant can be issued immediately. This will result in you being arrested and sent to jail.