Arraignment is a very short court proceeding wherein the accused is read the formal charges against him and then is asked to enter a plea. The three plea options are Guilty, Not Guilty and Not Guilty, Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity. The arraignment hearing will generally last no more than a few minutes. At arraignment no argument are heard, no witnesses and no evidence are presented to the court.
If the accused pleads Guilty, the judge will likely question the accused to be sure the accused is fully aware of the consequences of his plea and most times, representative counsel is also questioned to ensure the accused has been advised of his options. Obviously, a Guilty plea is not very common; although, it occurs occasionally.
The most common plea is for the accused to declare Not Guilty. The court will then advise the accused and his representative counsel the time period allowed to file pretrial motions. In Louisiana, the accused is allowed 15 days to file the motions. Once the clerk of court receives the motions, they are forwarded to the parties listed for service on the bottom of the documents. This is almost always the District Attorney’s Office and sometimes other parties, depending on the motion.
The Judge receives the motion and he will then sign the order which sets a date for the contradictory hearing. In most cases all motions filed at the same time are set for the same date and time for arguments.
Argument is a loose term and is used because the hearings are adversarial, but no screaming back and forth actually occurs. Argument means the parties present their side and offer legislative law or case law to support their position.
The mover (party filing the motion) in most every instance bears the responsibility of presenting his issue and should cite authority to support his argument. The authority can be a law enacted by the legislature – generally called a Statute – or a case precedent – that is a case with the same issue that was ruled on by a higher court such as a Court of Appeal and or the Supreme Court.
The opposing party follows with an argument of his own that supports his position and is backed up a Statute and or Case law. Naturally, the higher the court the more persuasive the authority is and if the ruling is from a higher court from the same jurisdiction the case law becomes more authoritative than case law from an outside jurisdiction.
The arraignment is just the first step on the road litigating your case. Pretrial hearings follow and then pre-trial conferences and finally a trial.