The arraignment is the first court hearing that will take place after a Michigan DUI/OWI arrest. This hearing can take place before a judge or magistrate, and in some courts, can be waived. The purpose the arraignment is to inform you of the offense charged. The court rule covering arraignments in Michigan is found at MCR 6.104, which indicates in part as follows:
(E) Arraignment Procedure; Judicial Responsibilities. The court at the arraignment must
(1) inform the accused of the nature of the offense charged, and its maximum possible prison sentence and any mandatory minimum sentence required by law;
The charging document read at an arraignment can be a ticket, complaint, or information. If you are being arraigned on a complaint or information, then you are entitled to receive a copy of the charging document. Sometimes, even if you were given an OWI ticket at the roadside, the prosecutor will later prepare a complaint and warrant. In these cases, your arraignment will be on the warrant as well. Be sure to speak with your attorney before the hearing to learn what kind of arraignment you are facing.
Once the charges have been read to you by the court, you will be asked to enter a plea. Usually, your attorney will do this for you and will indicate to the court either that you plead not guilty or stand mute. If you stand mute, then the court will enter a plea of not guilty on your behalf. After the charges have been read to you, the next step is for the court to set a bond. There are two parts to a bond (1) a dollar amount, and (2) conditions of bond. In most instances, your attorney will say “your Honor, we waive the formal reading, and the defendant stands mute.” By “standing mute” you do acknowledge that the court has jurisdiction over you. Waiving the reading means the court is relieved of its obligation to read the charges to you out loud. The court assumes you’ve been advised of the charges by your lawyer.
After the charges have been read or waived, the next item on the arraignment agenda will be scheduling of bond, as well as the fashioning of conditions of bond. Like everything else, there is a court rule that must be followed, and relative to the money part of bond, MCR 6.106 reads as follows:
(A) In General. At the defendant’s arraignment on the complaint and/or warrant, unless an order in accordance with this rule was issued beforehand, the court must order that, pending trial, the defendant be
(1) held in custody as provided in subrule (B);
(2) released on personal recognizance or an unsecured appearance bond; or
(3) released conditionally, with or without money bail (ten percent, cash or surety).
In all criminal cases you have an absolute right to an arraignment because your right to be advised of the charged is protected the U.S. Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, which reads in part as follows:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.
Our Founders thought the arraignment was so important that they included this right in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. This is because they had lived under a tyrannical king who would use the criminal justice system to have political enemies or enemies of the crown arrested, and thrown in jail, where they would stay indefinitely. Back then there was no right to even be told the reason for the arrest. This is just one of the many abuses of Government that our Constitution was designed to forever preclude.
Most arraignments are perfunctory and quick, and you should expect to be in court for only a short time. Your attorney can tell you more about what to expect in the particular court where your case is pending. You will leave this arraignment with a better understanding of the charges you face, the judge to whom your case is assigned and will be provided with a document that sets forth your bond conditions. It is important for your attorney to meet with you before the arraignment so that you can obtain the lowest dollar amount possible and the most favorable bond conditions.