Dealing with the criminal justice system can be stressful and complex for anyone, but it can be especially so if this is your first time being arrested for a crime and placed behind bars. You are likely to be scared, confused, and unsure what to do to get yourself out of jail as quickly as possible. When you are told about an initial appearance, a bail hearing, and an arraignment, you may not understand what the difference is between these events that often occur quickly in succession after your arrest, or which one involves you getting released to the safety of your home. Your arraignment and bail hearing occur before your trial date and will likely occur very close together, possibly on the same day. Below, our experienced Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden explain what an arraignment is, what happens at your bail hearing, how getting released works, and how we can help get you out of jail as quickly as possible.
The Criminal Arraignment in Utah
Decisions about whether a person who was arrested will be released from jail get made at the bail hearing, not the arraignment, though the two often occur in tandem. The criminal arraignment itself is a relatively short and simple proceeding where you officially enter an initial plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. If you enter a guilty plea, the matter will be resolved and will proceed to the sentencing phase, where the judge will impose penalties. If you enter a no-contest plea, which is essentially equivalent to a guilty plea but cannot be used as proof of your guilt in any related civil case, the matter will also proceed to sentencing. A no-contest plea requires the approval of the court. Depending on the outcome of your bail hearing, you may or may not be released after your arraignment.
In misdemeanor cases, the arraignment will occur at the same time as your initial appearance in court. The initial appearance in both felony and misdemeanor cases consists of the judge reading the charges against you and advising you of your rights in a criminal case, and it also typically includes the bail hearing. For misdemeanor charges, you are arraigned at your initial appearance. Here, you will be informed of the charges against you, given the opportunity to enter a plea, and informed of your legal rights surrounding your criminal trial. You will be notified of your right to counsel during your criminal trial and given the opportunity to speak with counsel before moving on to the next step. If you do not have an attorney at this point, the court may reschedule this hearing to give you a chance to seek some guidance from your lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to help you get released without having to post bail, or at the very least get released on bail that you can afford.
It is critical that you obtain the assistance of an attorney before entering any plea. The nature of your plea will determine what happens next. A plea of “not guilty” will result in a trial as well as a pretrial conference being scheduled. If you choose to plead not guilty, you have the right to change your plea later on if you so wish. With a plea of “guilty” or “no contest,” the court will make sure you understand that you are waiving your right to a trial and move on to the sentencing phase. Once you plead guilty, it is very difficult to change your plea later on.
Felony cases work a little differently than misdemeanor cases and tend to involve a few more steps. In felony cases, the arraignment where you are asked to enter your plea will not occur until later in the case, after your bail hearing and a potential preliminary hearing. For felony cases, your initial appearance will come first, and this is where you are formally notified of the charges against you. You will also be notified of your rights, including the right to counsel, at this phase. The judge will then schedule your preliminary hearing, where they must determine if there is sufficient evidence to hold you over for trial.
Your bail will likely be determined after your preliminary hearing. If the judge determines there is insufficient evidence to hold you for trial, your case will be dismissed, and you will be released, making bail unnecessary. Only if the judge decides that sufficient evidence exists to warrant a trial will they need to discuss bail. You must have an attorney with you at your preliminary hearing as they can argue against any evidence that would cause you to be held over for trial and they can argue for reduced bail.
It is likely that an experienced Utah attorney for a criminal arraignment like those at Overson & Bugden will advise you to enter a not guilty plea at your arraignment. Even if you do not wish to take your case to trial, entering an initial plea of not guilty will give us time to collect all the evidence, assess the strength of the case, and try to negotiate a deal with the prosecutor for the charges to be downgraded or dismissed. You can easily change your plea to guilty or no contest later if we reach an acceptable deal.
The Bail Hearing in Utah
You will want to act quickly after your arrest to retain an experienced bail hearing attorney like those at Overson & Bugden to represent you at your bail hearing, where a judge will decide if you can be released or if you must be held in jail until the underlying matter is resolved. Typically, this hearing occurs within 72 hours of your arrest at most. Most defendants are usually granted bail. However, the judge may deny bail altogether to certain defendants. The judge will only hold those accused of the most severe crimes like rape, those who have serious criminal records, or those who have a history of not showing up for court.
Additionally, bail may only be denied to defendants charged with felonies. If you are facing misdemeanor charges, you will very likely be granted bail. Sometimes, typically for more minor crimes, the judge will release you on your own recognizance, meaning without bail. The only condition will be that you show up to your scheduled court appearances as required. If you fail to show up as required, the judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest and will likely impose bail or hold you without it. The judge will also consider imposing any conditions necessary to ensure you appear for trial and do not pose a threat to the public.
How is Bail Determined in Utah After Arraignment?
In most cases, the judge will set bail, which you will have to pay at least part of to be released. Judges normally follow the guidelines set out in the Utah Uniform Bail Schedule, which lists suggested bail amounts for each crime. However, the judge has the ability to set bail lower than suggested if they find “extenuating circumstances” in your case. In making such a decision, the judge will consider factors including the nature and severity of the crime alleged, your criminal history, and your ties and contributions to the local community. Defendants with little to no criminal record, strong ties to their community, and are facing relatively minor charges are more likely to be granted a reduced bail amount or be released on their own recognizance. However, if you have a lengthy criminal record and a bad habit of not showing up for scheduled court hearings, the judge is unlikely to show you any leniency when deciding your bail amount. Our lawyers know how to craft the most persuasive arguments based on the individual factors in your case to get you released on little to no bail.
What Happens if I Am Not Released After an Arraignment in Utah?
There are several reasons why you might not be released after your arraignment and bail hearing. It is possible that the judge decided to set bail at an amount that you were unable to afford. Depending on your charges and background, it is also possible that the judge denied you any bail whatsoever. If the judge chooses to hold you with no bail, we can make a motion for reconsideration. You are entitled to a second hearing where our skilled Taylorsville criminal defense attorneys at Overson & Bugden can have a more extensive chance to argue why you should not be considered a threat to the public or a flight risk if you are released. We will work to convince the judge that the initial ruling should be set aside and that either bail should be set or you should be released on your own recognizance.
If you are not able to secure your release because bail has been set too high for you to afford, you will have a few options. First, you can retain a bail bondsman, who will post a surety bond with the court in exchange for you paying a nominal amount. If you fail to appear as required, however, the bondsman will owe the court the full amount and will come after you and any co-signers for repayment. We can also file a motion for bail reduction, which works similar to a motion for reconsideration except that we will argue that bail has been set too high rather than that bail should be set in the first place.
Terms and Conditions of Your Bail in a Utah Criminal Case
When determining bail, a judge will consider conditions beyond a monetary amount. Bail may also come with specific terms and rules to which you must adhere. Even if you are released without paying any money, you may be subject to restrictive terms and conditions. If you are caught violating these terms, you may have your bail revoked and you will be put in jail until your trial. These conditions are imposed for several reasons, including ensuring victims’ and witnesses’ safety, preventing any further harm to the public, or getting you treatment. As part of your bail, a judge may order you to have no contact with your victim or any witnesses. The judge may also order you to undergo drug and alcohol testing, counseling, submit to electronic monitoring, or participate in psychological treatment programs. An experienced Orem criminal defense attorney will be able to help you argue against any extreme or unnecessary conditions and keep your bail as fair as possible.
An attorney may also be able to help you remove or change the conditions of your bail. These conditions are often imposed to prevent the defendant from fleeing the court’s jurisdiction before trial. If, after being released on bail subject to certain conditions, you have proven that you are not a flight risk, your attorney may ask the court to remove conditions of your bail. For example, if you have been ordered to be placed on house arrest until your trial, your attorney may ask to court to lift this restriction if you can prove you can be trusted to show up for court.
If You or a Loved One is Being Held in Jail, Call Our Skilled Defense Lawyers Today
Your arraignment is a separate event from the bail hearing where it is determined whether you can be released, although in some cases they will happen at or around the same time. While you have a right to receive bail that is fair and reasonable, this is not an absolute right to bail no matter what. Bail can be denied outright, or it may be too expensive for you to afford. If you are concerned about getting you or a loved one who had been arrested out of jail quickly, contact our experienced Tooele criminal defense lawyers at Overson & Bugden as soon as possible. We will work to get you home to safety and then focus on getting your charges downgraded or dismissed. For a free consultation, call our office today at (801) 758-2287.