Note that weapons are not allowed in the court building. Some courthouses do not allow cell phones. When you come into the building for your arraignment date, your first stop should be the district court probation office if your case is in district court or the superior court probation office if your case is in superior court.
Most cases start in district court, even murder cases. The name of the court should be on the paperwork you received after your arrest or in the mail. If you do not have your paperwork, some courthouses have an information desk when you walk in with a list of cases scheduled for that day and the courtroom where the case will be heard. If the case is scheduled to be heard in district court, or if you have not been able to figure out which court the case is in, start in the district court criminal clerk's office and ask if they have your case listed.
Once you are in the correct probation office for the court hearing your case, the probation officer will conduct an intake interview. In addition to basic identifying information, the interview will include questions about your financial status. Based on this information the probation officer will calculate whether you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer (but only a judge has the power to appoint a lawyer). The probation officer will also check in a computerized data base known as CARI (Court Activity Record Information) for information about your criminal history. The information will later be used by the judge to determine whether there are any outstanding warrants or payments that must be addressed in addition to the current charges and whether to impose bail.
When you have finished your interview with the probation officer, you should go the courtroom where your arraignment will be held. The probation officer will tell you, or you may ask, what courtroom your arraignment will be in and how to get there.
Part 2: Arraignment or First Appearance in Court
- Can court staff help me?
- What should I wear to court?
- Where should I go when I arrive at the court building?
- What should I do when I enter the arraignment courtroom?
- What conduct is expected in the courtroom?
- Who are the people in the courtroom?
- What will happen at my arraignment?
- What is bail (or bond)?
- When can I first talk to my court appointed lawyer?
- Can I dispose of my case at arraignment?
- What happens when I talk to the prosecutor (during a break in my court appearance) about resolving my case?
- Can my case be continued?
- What could my punishment be?
- What happens if I am charged with a crime but I am not a United States citizen?
- What is the difference between civil infractions, misdemeanors and felonies?
- What happens if my case is not resolved at arraignment?
- What should I do before I leave court?
- Part 3: Pre-Trial, Trial and Verdict