Individuals who are arrested for the first time often do not understand how the process works beyond being handcuffed and taken to jail. The booking process is standard procedure that all defendants must experience before any court appearance, regardless of the charge. Most local authorities have a central jail for everyone detained, while larger cities will have multiple locations. Many jails also have an electronic courtroom where defendants may appear before the judge as well without the need for transporting the defendant. This works well for both the court and defendants in terms of quickly initializing the case, often including determination by the judge regarding whether the charges are even valid.
This first appearance before the judge is called an arraignment. It is the technical legal term for having a defendant’s charges read in open court in a public forum. The judge will read the charges to the defendant and assess them for financial ability to retain an attorney if necessary. Bond assessment is commonly made as well at the arraignment if the defendant has been held. The arraignment will also result in having a court date set for a hearing on the case particulars. Defendants who are facing jail time are also required to have representation, and those who cannot afford an attorney are appointed legal counsel at the arraignment unless the state does not maintain a public defender office in the court system.
Some states require judges to formally read charges to defendants if an indictment is the reason for arrest. Defendants who have been released from jail and retained legal counsel can have the attorney appear for them or waive arraignment proceedings altogether once they have designated legal counsel. Obtaining legal representation before the arraignment process can be a real advantage for arrested individuals who may not be guilty because they can also assist their attorney in crafting a defense and alibi upon being released from jail.