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The Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer During an Arraignment or Initial Appearance

Posted by Attorney James Hairgrove | May 06, 2014 | 0 Comments

San Diego criminal defense attorneyA San Diego criminal defense attorney can begin to advocate for a defendant during an initial appearance. The purpose of an initial appearance is to determine whether a crime most likely took place, there was probable cause to detain a defendant and establish that the defendant is the person named in the charges. The defense attorney may do the following during an initial appearance:

Study the Written Charges

At the appearance, there will be written charges, also known as the accusatory instrument. A San Diego criminal defense lawyer might challenge the accusatory instrument if it does not establish probable cause. If the defendant is not the same as the person named in the written charges, the attorney may advocate for the defendant's release.

Advocate for the Defendant's Release on Bail

If probable cause is established, the next step will be to set bail. A lawyer may argue for a reasonable bail amount and for the defendant's release on bail. If the prosecution requests a high bail in relation to the charges, the defense attorney might compel the release of additional evidence to justify a high bail amount.

Discovery During the Arraignment

The prosecution and the defense will have the opportunity to begin the discovery process during the arraignment. This means that each side has a chance to notify the other of the intent to offer particular evidence. Additionally, each side has the opportunity to notify the other of the intention to exercise particular rights. For instance, a San Diego criminal defense attorney may request an opportunity for the defendant to testify before the grand jury or ask for a preliminary hearing. Additionally, the defense lawyer may present evidence of a pre-trial identification or statements made by the defendant. How a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer May Prepare for an Arraignment or Initial Appearance

There are several things a criminal defense lawyer might do in preparation for a defendant's arraignment or initial appearance:

  • Serve a request for discovery;
  • Acquire the names of any witnesses for the prosecution in attendance and speak with them;
  • If required by local rules, provide notice of a defendant's intent to testify before the grand jury; and
  • File a request for the preservation of the prosecution's evidence. Following are some examples of evidence that could be destroyed without the request:
    • Blood samples;
    • Emails;
    • List of numbers of incoming calls to the defendant's cell phone if it was confiscated;
    • List of numbers of incoming calls to the victim's cell phone;
    • 911 recordings; and
    • Calls made to the victim's voicemail.

Establish a rapport with the prosecuting or arresting officer:

  • Find out about the officer's opinion about how cooperative a defendant is; and
  • Determine the officer's openness to alternative arrangements such as:
    • Dismissal in exchange for restitution; and
    • Pre-trial diversion.

Note to Defendants Who Have Been Injured While in Police Custody

In the event that a defendant was subject to rough treatment by police officers it is important to document any injuries that have occurred. Have a witness – not the San Diego criminal defense attorney – describe the injuries and take photographs. The court should be notified if the defendant requires medical attention while still in custody. If the defendant has been freed on bail, make certain to seek medical treatment.

Attorney James V. Hairgrove has a background in criminal defense cases and can provide advice and representation to individuals who are facing criminal charges. Please call 619-667-3743 for a consultation.

About the Author

Attorney James Hairgrove

About My Role I am the Chief Executive at California Law Centers, APC., which incorporates the following legal services: Personal Injury, Family Law, Criminal Law, as well as traffic tickets. I have attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, graduating in 1994 in the top-third of my c...


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